I seem to recall a time in my youth when the American federal government somehow thought that an important part of its mission was to help the poor to become less poor. And since the single most important reason that the poor were poor was that they lacked access to inexpensive and reliable energy, a big part of the effort to help the poor become less poor consisted of bringing the benefits of fossil fuel-based energy to the poor.
And thus, starting in the New Deal period in the 1930s and continuing from then, we had things like the Rural Electrification Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority out there working to bring the benefits of electricity, much of it generated from coal, to the rural poor of America. The REA focused on financing distribution networks to distribute the mostly coal-generated power. TVA actually built multiple coal power plants in its own name. One could quibble over whether a socialist model of government-directed development exemplified by REA and TVA was the best way to bring the benefits of inexpensive electricity to the poor. But at least the government recognized that its mission was to help make the poor less poor, rather than the reverse.
Then somewhere along the line things turned. Suddenly it became fashionable to seek to use government power to make the poor poorer. Of course, nobody would put it in exactly those terms. But quite obviously the government's goal shifted from seeking to have as much energy and as cheap as possible available to the poor to enhance their living standards, to instead seeking to restrict and limit the amount of energy available to the poor and intentionally increase its price so that the poor would be forced to use less of it and would have their living standards lowered. These efforts have gone under various names, all of which are euphemisms that seek to divert attention away from the intended effect of further impoverishing the poor; but the intended effect is nonetheless obvious to anyone who pays attention. We have, for example, the proposal for a "cap and trade" program -- explicitly designed to force the price of fossil-fuel-derived energy up in order that lower income people can no longer afford it and will consume less. We have proposed "carbon taxes" -- and even more direct way to force up the price of energy so that low income people will have no choice but to consume less. And now we have EPA's Clean Power Program -- a coercive program to drive cheap coal power generation out of business and thereby force the people to purchase far more expensive and less reliable options, like wind and solar. (The implementation of the Clean Power Program is currently stayed by an order of the Supreme Court issued shortly before the death of Justice Scalia.)
I can't pinpoint exactly when the U.S. government made its 180 degree turn. But clearly the turn had been made by the time Barack Obama was elected President. It was during his 2008 campaign that Obama famously acknowledged that the whole idea of his plan for a cap-and-trade system was to make electricity prices "skyrocket":
[U]nder my plan of a cap and trade system electricity rates would sky rocket.
Obama then appointed as his chief science advisor a guy named John Holdren, who has made a career of advocating to de-industrialize the United States. Holdren had a long collaboration with eco-doomsayer Paul Ehrlich. One of the famous quotes from their work is this:
A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States.
From Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich, and John Holdren, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (W.H. Freeman, 1973), p. 279. Holdren has never backed off from this statement, nor from many others like it; and he remains President Obama's science advisor to this day. Holdren appears completely oblivious to the fact that industrialization and economic development have made the average American some 50 or so times better off than his pre-industrialization predecessor.
Remarkably, in his seven plus years in office President Obama has been thwarted in his efforts to deepen the energy poverty of the poor. His cap-and-trade plan failed to pass Congress. His Clean Power Plan has been stayed by the Supreme Court. The fracking revolution -- entirely brought about by the private sector -- has recently caused the price of fossil-fuel-based energy to go down rather than up. Nevertheless, Obama's would-be Democratic successors, Sanders and Clinton, have both advocated for policies that would restrict or ban fracking and thereby force energy prices back up to the detriment of the poor. (Hillary has been somewhat circumspect about her intentions, but at a Democratic debate in March she admitted that "By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place." )
All of which brings me to an article titled "When Will Africa Get Healthy and Prosperous?" by a guy named Steven Lyazi that appeared on July 13 at the townhall website. Lyazi is from Uganda, where he works as a "day laborer and student." He describes some of the effects on his very poor country of Western efforts to restrict fossil fuel development and require his country to rely on so-called "sustainable" energy sources:
[E]nvironmental activists, western powers and UN agencies dictate what issues are important – and use them to keep us poor and deprived: manmade climate change, no GMO foods, no DDT to prevent malaria, using wind and solar power and never building coal, natural gas or nuclear power plants. This is a criminal trick that denies us our basic rights to affordable energy, jobs and modern living standards.
Then he describes some of the very practical effects of intermittent electricity:
In January 2015, I was in Kampala’s Mulago Hospital caring for my friend and mentor, Cyril Boynes, who was dying from a stroke and kidney failure. The doctors and nurses tried to save him, but they had old, broken equipment and constantly battled electricity failures. Many times, the power went out, the lights and equipment stopped working, and people died before the electricity came back on.
My question is, how does anyone think that this is morally acceptable?