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What America and India Have In Common

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Thursday, 09 Aug 2012 10:08 AM Current | Bio | Archive

America has the largest economy in the world. India is ranked 9th. Yet, as a result of failed energy policies in both countries, America and India have more in common than you might think.

We all read or heard about the huge power outage in India that impacted 680 million people late last month. According to news reports, it affected eight Indian states, equal to nearly double the populations of the United States and the United Kingdom combined.

Trains were delayed for as long as six hours, while traffic lights went out, snarling traffic for hours. The airports were on emergency power. Businesses lost goods and customers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “The outage showed the failure of India’s efforts to boost its power infrastructure. … More than half of India’s power-generation capacity of 205 gigawatts is coal-produced, and Coal India Ltd., the world’s largest coal producer, is unable to produce enough owing to delays in getting environmental clearances for mining.”

Today, there is a 10 percent energy deficit in India, which will have a long-term impact on economic growth. The Reserve Bank of India recently reduced the country’s growth forecast for the current fiscal year to 6.5 percent from 7.3 percent.

In addition to its inability to boost power with coal due to environmental restrictions, The Journal reported, “blackouts are a symptom of stalled reforms and under-investment in all segments of the Indian power sector — generation, transmission and distribution.”

Could what happened in India happen in the United States?

It already has, albeit fortunately, on a smaller scale. On Aug. 14, 2003, 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada suddenly found themselves without electricity, some for more than 24 hours, costing an estimated $10 billion.

In July 2006, a nine-day power outage in Queens, New York, affected 100,000 people. The same month, a violent thunderstorm in St. Louis knocked out power for a week for some 700,000 people.

In 2008, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s power infrastructure a “D” grade and said in a report, “the U.S. power transmission system is in urgent need of modernization.” A few years earlier, Bill Richardson, former energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, said America was “a superpower with a third-world grid.”

According to a 2007 report from the Council on Foreign Relations, “The U.S. electrical grid — the system that carries electricity from producers to consumers — is in dire straits. Electricity generation and consumption have steadily risen, placing an increased burden on a transmission system that was not designed to carry such a large load.”

And paltry investment in the aging infrastructure caused transmission capacity to drop 19 percent annually for the decade between 1992 and 2002, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Yes, we need to fix our energy grid, but that takes time and money. Today, we could start reducing our energy costs, boost production and create millions of jobs by utilizing our coal reserves. We can’t let what happened in India happen here by reducing coal production. Environmental regulations are killing the $33.7 billion U.S. coal industry. Groups like the Edison Electric Institute have previously warned that new regulations eventually will cost utilities up to $129 billion and force them to retire one-fifth of our coal generation capacity, leading to a surge in coal plant shutdowns and the loss of thousands of jobs. Americans will be hit with substantially more energy-rate hikes even as they struggle to pay their energy bills now.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a quarter of all known recoverable coal reserves in the world are in the United States. Coal is found in 25 states. In fact, we have more energy in the form of coal than the entire Middle East has oil. At the current rate of consumption, coal can meet domestic demand for more than 200 years.

Can a great nation like the United States devolve into India? It can happen over time if we don’t follow a sane, realistic energy plan. There currently is none.
Giving billions of dollars to failed green-energy companies with ties to the Obama administration has not worked, and will not work. Especially considering we have the largest coal reserves in the world.

There’s a reason America has the world’s number one economy. We out-think and out-innovate all other nations. It’s time we let the Obama administration take a long sabbatical so our energy innovators and suppliers can tackle our power challenges without interference.

Let the market decide which energy options work and which don’t.

Let our entrepreneurs and risk takers decide which create jobs and which waste resources.

And let our domestic energy industry promote our world energy leadership, while not letting government regulators detract from it.

We can admire India. But we shouldn’t aspire to become India.

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2012-08-09
Thursday, 09 Aug 2012 10:08 AM
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