Developing world's energy needs set stage for fight
Developing nations' urgent need for more energy has become a central issue this year as developed countries push for a global reduction in carbon emissions.
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In South Africa, demand so outstripped supply in late 2007 that Eskom, the state-owned power company, began rationing, plunging cities into occasional darkness and causing temporary shutdowns in one of the world's major mining sectors. Mining output plunged 11 percent in January 2008, sending gold and platinum prices to record highs.Skip to next paragraph
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In Kenya, an economic powerhouse in East Africa, power is being rationed even as workers are digging trenches for fiber-optic cables along the streets of Nairobi, the capital. Lengthy power cuts are crippling an economy that is still reeling from last year's post-election violence and the fallout of the global financial meltdown. Auto mechanics, street-side welders and other businesses are limiting their hours of operation or shutting down.
Massive power shortfalls in Pakistan are a result of years of neglect, analysts said: Power stations are outdated, more and more electricity is being hijacked from power lines by ordinary people, and the government is often too preoccupied with the security threat in the country's northwest to focus on maintaining existing power plants, much less building new ones.
"Pakistan has to make a choice whether to develop electricity or face power cuts that result in unemployment, low economic growth and protests," said Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan's minister for water and power, who favors more development.
One of the many hurdles to generating more energy in places such as India and Nigeria is the protests that often stall construction of power plants and hydroelectric dams. In recent years, global environmental groups have sometimes helped organize protests to protect local communities from government and corporate land grabs and from potential ecological hazards posed by such projects.
Some environmentalists see a chance for Asian and African countries to take the lead in developing renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind power, bypassing Western energy models based largely on coal and oil.
But many economic experts here are doubtful that will happen.
"The United States and Europe have had the energy they needed to grow and develop," said William Bissell, a prominent Indian entrepreneur and author of "Making India Work." ''But we haven't had our 21st century yet."
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