Why do California academics want to keep Kosovo in the dark?

The World Bank is in danger of forgetting its remit. Letting Kosovo's economy grow is imperative.

Let developing countries develop...
The Commentator
On 19 March 2012 15:31

Without going too jargon crazy about the abundance of lignite coal in Kosovo, it's worth highlighting how a wealthy Californian academic and his green-eyed ideological fellow-travellers are colluding to stop impoverished Kosovans getting fast and easy power with the resources they have to hand.

And green-eyed they are in more than just one way. This is the typical sort anti-development 'green imperialism' that pervades today as NGOs pressure Western governments to enforce costly mandates that would help countries like Kosovo develop what they deem to be a 'green legacy'. In reality - this is 21st century imperialism.

Kosovans don't need a 'green legacy' - they need affordable power, and fast. In a country with a growth rate of 5.3% (eat your heart out Great Britain) but with an average per capita income of just $6400 and unemployment at forty-five per cent, the country's priorities can hardly tilted towards environmental trimming around the edges.

The truth of the matter is that NGOs and organisations like the World Bank have a vested interest in creating more debt for countries like Kosovo. Interest payments on debt such as the financing of costly and time-consuming green projects would ensure groups like the World Bank and the activist groups that knock on their door would continue to be fiscally sustainably. It's sick when you think about it.

Since Robert Zoellick took the helm of the World Bank in 2007, the environmentalist bent of the institution has increased notably. The organisation is in fact in danger of becoming as (or more) focused on green initiatives supported by non-governmental organisations. The focus on renewable power, forestry and climate change is  worrisome - as not only in many cases are these efforts contrary to the development remit of the World Bank - but also this simply doesn't represent good value for money for the inevitable funders of these projects: governments and taxpayers. 

Of the $7.5bn the bank lent in 2008, $2.7bn of this went to energy saving or renewables investment. That's a whopping thirty-six percent of the World Bank's expenditure going into tertiary concerns. In June 2009, Ethiopia blamed power cuts on the World Bank's refusal to fund a 60MW diesel generator - crippling impoverished homes and the economy while trying to appease the green lobby. Thankfully for the Kosovans, the World Bank looks set to back the project they so desperately need. But this effort must not be derailed.

It is a well established fact that Kosovo's electricity supply is a key hinderance with regard to its development needs. The unreliability of energy means that the country desperately needs to utilise their natural resources to compete both locally and on a worldwide stage, offering a better standard of living to their residents.

But Daniel Kammen of the University of California, Berkeley disagrees. From 6500 miles away in his plush office he penned a letter to the US Treasury insisting that because US fuel costs were rising, the Kosovar people must invest in wind and biomass energy options. Thankfully in this instance, the World Bank failed to cave to pressure - poring over Kammen's fifty-page analysis into 'sustainable energy options for Kosovo' and concluding that 'the analysis does not present a clear case for Kosovo to adopt a power development plan that does not include the Kosovar Re Power Plant' (the lignite coal plant). 

An in-depth look at Kammen et al's report shows that the report indeed fails to prove any of the points they sought to, apart from the 'wouldn't it be nice if...' test. We agree with Professor Kammen, it would be nice if Kosovo could rely on thin air for its power generation needs - but pesky physics and economics precludes this from happening.

Finally, Kammen appeals to the fact that Kosovo is looking toward European Union membership and that the employment of a coal power station would hinder this. But with the trajectory of the European Union, as well as the fact that Kosovo is literally being treated as an asterisk in the accession hopes of Serbia - one might argue that Professor Kammen is barking up the wrong wind turbine with that line of reasoning.

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