Monday, October 19, 2009

Reducing Fossil Fuel Dependence Is A Must, Not An Alternative

Untold millions of dollars have been spent in recent years prospecting for oil in Kenya. Nothing commercially viable has been found yet, but this hasn't prevented the search from continuing. In the next few weeks the search will intensify in Isiolo in Kenya's Eastern Province.

It's disappointing that leaders in Kenya don't seem to be aware of the pitfalls of depending on fossil fuel energy, considering they are experiencing some of those pitfalls right now. Emergency energy generation to make up for the shortfall from hydroelectric power is very expensive. The ongoing, widespread drought in Kenya means that the country is resorting to emergency energy more and more.

But it has long been recognised that developing countries will feel the effects of climate change the most. As use of fossil fuels contributes to climate change, are the Kenyan politicians and business people with their snouts in the oil trough not able to see the connection between this and greater use of oil?

If even a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars spent on fossil fuel prospecting could be spent on renewable, sustainable and clean energy sources, Kenya could be able to supply all its own energy needs by now. But, egged on by foreign interests, they are frittering away this timely opportunity.

The country has, like many African countries, abundant solar energy potential. They also have vast, mostly untapped geothermal potential. Some areas get enough wind at certain times of the year to produce huge amounts of electricity. And there are, doubtless, many other alternatives to depending on high carbon emission fossil fuels.

Leaving aside the environmental issues, energy minister Kiraitu Murungi has said that oil exploration has been associated with "dictatorship, imperialism, exploitation, neglect of agriculture, marginalisation and civil strife on the [African] continent". But Murungi needn't worry so much about these issues. Kenyans have experienced them all at some time and are experiencing many of them right now.

As for the possibility that discovering oil in Isiolo or anywhere else in Kenya will relieve poverty, I don't see anyone being fooled into believing this. But now is a good time to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, not increase usage. Now is also a good time to explore the alternatives. Perhaps now is the only time. Sphere: Related Content

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