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Friday, April 22, 2016

The West’s Most Unwanted Export Hits India—Greenpeace

The Narendra Modi government has frozen the bank accounts of Greenpeace India and banned the organization from raising foreign funds. It is hard not to sympathize with the government’s action when you are aware of the anti-development activities in which this environmentalist group has been involved. The only unfortunate thing in this case is that the Modi government has chosen to act on the basis of a routine bureaucratic report, which alleges that Greenpeace India has violated the rules of foreign funding and has withheld information on transactions.

Charging Greenpeace for financial impropriety is to my mind like charging Al Capone with tax evasion — the gangster was too slippery and could only be nailed on a technicality. The activities in which Greenpeace India was involved are far more sinister. By making a minor financial issue the basis for taking action, the government has given Greenpeace India the opportunity to play the role of a martyr.

No one in the Modi government has cared to refute the environment centered world-view of Greenpeace. No one has pointed out that nature is not superior to human beings and we can only survive by transforming the harsh natural environment. No one has said that increased usage of fossil fuels is India’s critical need — fossil fuels can liberate and empower Indians. Even the mainstream media has done nothing to expose the false propaganda of the environmentalists; quite the contrary, environmentalists are often projected as angels trying to save the environment.

More than 300 million people in India live without electricity, even though India has abundant coal, which can be used to generate cheap electricity. But new projects for coal-fired plants are getting mired in endless delays, mainly because of the high-decibel campaigns spearheaded by organizations like Greenpeace. The environmentalists believe that coal must always remain below the earth, it must never be dug up and burnt. If the coal remains underground, hundreds of millions of Indians will remain in darkness.

Greenpeace wants India to immediately switch to more expensive renewable energy. But India can’t afford to waste resources on renewable energy projects. In fact, no country in the world can afford to meet its energy requirements through renewable resources. Renewable energy is not only costlier, it is also unreliable compared to the electricity that we get from fossil fuels such as coal. The contribution of renewable energy to the total energy generated in the world is less than 2%. More than 80% of the world’s power supply comes from coal because coal is the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable means of generating power.

If the cheaper and reliable option of coal-based electricity is not pursued, millions of Indians will continue to suffer a life without electricity. India is desperate for power; average electricity usage in India is among the lowest in the world. An average Indian uses just 6 percent of the electricity used by an average American.

Since Greenpeace set up its India office in 2002, it has campaigned against not only the new coal power plants, but also against nuclear projects, mining projects, and every large-scale infrastructure project. A populous country like India faces a lot of challenges in executing development projects. There are challenges related to displacement, land acquisition, conflicts with locals and tribes, compensation, permits, and bureaucracy. Organizations like Greenpeace pretend to act on behalf of blighted natives and they have the talent to exploit and exacerbate all challenges.

Environmentalists claim that burning fossil fuels — coal, oil, and gas, in that order — releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which, in turn, causes extreme climate events. But this fear-mongering in the name of climate change is not a recent phenomenon. During the 1970s, we were warned that if we didn’t end all developmental activity, there would be global cooling to such an extent that we would face another ice age. During the 1990s, they were telling us that climate change was accelerating and global warming would lead to the melting of polar ice, which in turn would lead to a massive rise in sea levels. But the climate has mostly remained flat.

Environmentalist groups have a long record of issuing dire warnings of catastrophic events that would come to pass if we continued with unchecked consumption and development. None of their doomsday scenarios have come true. During the last 50 years, the world saw more than a 100% increase in coal usage and we witnessed an agricultural revolution. Food production soared — and, consequent to that improved nutrition, life spans increased, the world population doubled, child mortality rates fell more than 50%. There was a tremendous improvement in infrastructure in urban areas and technological innovation in all spheres of life.

Organizations like Greenpeace propagate distorted data to coerce us into giving up fossil fuels and the modern way of life. Unfortunately, most Indians continue to believe that fossil fuels are bad and climate change is a real threat. No effort is being made by the Modi government to expose and refute the baseless and anti-human environmentalist ideology. The academic community and mainstream media are unfortunately hand in glove with environmentalists.

All the core ideas of environmentalism are tacitly accepted by the Modi government. Speaking at the Paris Climate Summit, Prime Minister Modi said: “The consequences of the industrial age powered by fossil fuel are evident, especially on the lives of the poor.”

What consequences is the Prime Minister talking about? It is the consequence of the industrial age that there are now more than 7 billion humans on this planet. It is the consequence of the industrial age that a significant number of human beings now have easy access to electricity, clean water, genetically improved crops, sturdy homes, health care, medicines, communication systems, air conditioning, entertainment and much else. If the consequences of the industrial age were evident to politicians, they would not join the environmentalists in demonizing fossil fuels and lamenting that we must reduce carbon emissions.

Modi either believes, or, for political purposes, pretends to believe, the environmentalist idea that we must harness solar energy to fight climate change. His government has announced plans to spend billions to set up new solar power plants. When cheaper coal-based alternatives exist, why is taxpayers’ money being poured into an environmentalist fantasy like solar energy? India simply can’t afford to squander resources on such fantasies when more than 300 million citizens are living without electricity.

If Modi truly wants to bring electricity to every Indian, he must begin by exposing the destructive anti-human ideology of organizations like Greenpeace. He must reject the idea that industrial civilization is not sustainable. He must accept that millions of Indians can rise from poverty to prosperity only if we improve our ability to extract energy from fossil fuels.

First published in Savvy Street

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