Biden’s neocolonial African energy policy

The Biden administration’s decision to impose oppressive, burdensome restrictions on developing African countries attempting to advance and lift themselves from poverty, destitution and dependency is concerning. Energy development is at the heart of Africa’s growth challenge. No country can become prosperous and self-reliant without access to affordable and plentiful energy. Energy security is the prerequisite for industrialization, job creation, advanced health care and effective education systems. Prosperity is only possible with ready access to inexpensive energy.

Congress initiated the bipartisan Power Africa program in 2015, with the underlying legislation mandating a common-sense energy strategy with both conventional and renewable sources. The program has worked successfully. Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. Power Africa is bringing together technical and legal experts, the private sector, and governments from around the world to work in partnership to increase the number of people with access to power. Power Africa’s goal is to add at least 30,000 megawatts of cleaner and more reliable electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections by 2030.

Regrettably, the Biden administration has gutted Power Africa with restrictions. Instead of leveraging all available tools to pull Africa out of energy poverty and help to continent to advance, the Biden administration has decided to only allow so-called green energy projects to receive U.S. funding and support. This policy is simple energy neocolonialism, meaning an attempt to control less-developed African countries through indirect means, in this case funding. Also, the policy is a huge waste of money and opportunities. Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, has not been helpful in advancing African economies, but keeps the focus on green energy. John Kerry is also working hard to lift sanctions on Iran.

The Biden administration demands that African countries should solve their energy supply with ineffective and counterproductive green solutions. Most recently, Kerry and other administration officials, including Kamela Harris, attended COP28 in the UAE, where they pledged billions in funding for the Green Climate Fund. The Green Climate Fund is a fund established within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. Many has called this fund a slush fund for special interest projects with no real oversight.

The U.S. pledges of billions for Africa to invest only in perceived green projects will do nothing to address the real drivers of global pollution such as China. It seems unconscionable that the Biden administration is exploiting Africa’s dire needs for investments towards energy modernization to focus on its own green agenda. It seems wrong to hold still-developing African countries to a standard even the most advanced economies cannot achieve. This is sending strong messages to Africa, and it will certainly impact U.S. interests in Africa.

The U.S. funding requirements for Africa are even more absurd when one considers that Africa’s emissions are entirely inconsequential, amounting to less than the margin of error in climate models used to speculate about the effects of climate change. In other words, if Africa were to reduce its emissions to zero, it would still have almost no effect on a global scale. And even if African countries tripled their current emissions levels, it would be negligible compared with China’s continuously growing carbon emissions. Instead of confronting China about their pollution, responsible for 27% of global emissions, the Biden administration is holding underdeveloped African countries to an unfair and unrealistic standard. Also, China has shown Africa that they are willing and eager to finance the conventional energy development that the Biden administration is trying to quash.

Biden’s approach to Power Africa is disrespectful, paternalistic, and counterproductive. It is wasteful because it devalues critical energy assistance to Africa and diverts it to less useful priorities. It is paternalistic because it dictates oppressive burdens on Africa’s development. It is counterproductive because it hinders Africa’s advancement while driving countries away from the U.S. into the waiting arms of other countries such as China.

Congress should work together to find a bipartisan path forward to empower Africa’s energy future. The first step should be lifting the absurd criteria the Biden administration has imposed on African energy funding. Neocolonialism indeed.

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