An(other) Inconvenient Truth Perhaps it’s naturally a bit easier to talk of turbines and solar here on the Carleton campus. Most students are from the United States, unarguably one of the richest nations in the world, and our priorities of preferential premiums reflect this wealth. I specifically remember that when David Shipler, the author of The Working Poor, asked a large group of Carleton students whether we would approve vastly higher taxes, at least 75% of the 400-some students raised their hands with pride. It’s also a bit easier for this group of people to speak of clean energy priorities, both because it can afford the cost premium which sometimes occurs, as well as because the clean energy generally remains to be small projects which still supplement a primary fossil-fuel system. However, there are two billion other people on the planet who can neither afford these premium preferences nor supplement their pre-existing energy infrastructure with renewable choices because they lack ANY viable choices.
This inconvenient truth spurs decisions such as the International Finance Corporation’s announcement that it will issue a $450 million loan to India Tata Power, which is planning to build a $4 billion, 4-billion watt coal-burning power plant complex in the country. To give some perspective, that’s 2,425 of Carleton’s wind turbines or eight large-scale (500 MW) American coal power plants. India has 400 million people without regular access to electricity, and is expecting to expand its energy generation by 160 billion watts over the next decade. Is there a way to meet such demand—and help a country develop—with a more environmentally-friendly approach?