For the past several years, the term “energy crisis” has been used to address a lack of renewable energy sources. The transition from coal to solar and hydroelectric power has been an ongoing effort for many countries. The emergence of hybrid vehicles has been an attempt to curb the use of gasoline and other fossil fuels.
However, to those in the developing world, acquiring any energy at all is often a challenge, making renewable energy a secondary thought.
The reason why is simple. About 1.1 billion people, most of whom live in under-developed parts of the world, don’t have stable electricity to begin with, and some organizations estimate that about half of the world’s population is affected by this issue.
In the United States, this part of the energy crisis conversation is often overlooked. So much of our policymaking addresses the many energy sources we have, including oil, natural gas, solar and wind power. However, in many countries the need to bring energy and electricity to citizens results in dependence on oil and other non-renewable energy sources.
Developing countries are posed with a unique challenge. They must balance the necessity of growth with the rising costs of industrial development. Furthermore, they have to bring electricity and economic prosperity to their citizens while meeting international environmental standards.
Unfortunately, many countries get caught up with addressing only the first part of this challenge. In fact, some of the improvement thus far in access to electricity is due to the use of oil and other fossil fuels. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the developing world’s energy-related carbon emissions are set
to outpace those of the developed world by 127 percent by 2040. This shows that as many developing countries grow, they rely on carbon-based fuel sources.
I think that we should emphasize two things as we move forward. First, there needs to be increased cooperation between developed and developing countries. There are tremendous technological advances that simply haven’t been shared with many parts of the world. Open collaboration between universities could help pass along knowledge of how to build efficient solar panels and wind turbines, for example. Doing this, we could help bring more stable electricity to many parts of the world and also help decrease the dependence on non-renewable sources like oil.
Second, the developed world should pressure other governments to invest in their energy infrastructures. For instance, making power lines more efficient and expansive or subsidizing energy companies that comply with international energy standards could be good first steps.
In the U.S., we seem to take electricity for granted. In reality, having access to electricity is liberating. But it’s a liberty that requires cooperation to achieve and special attention to harness. Unless countries share information and make the concerted effort to help their citizens, this crisis will remain a crisis.