Energy Expert: Poverty Stricken Don't 'Give a Damn' About Warming

     According to one energy security expert, unless prosperity exists people simply will not care about climate change. Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, said on July 11 that the poor have other priorities than global warming.

     “They [poor people] could not give a damn about climate change because they want 24 hours a day light,” said Luft who cited the example of people living in slums outside Bangalore, India.

     “In India alone, 600 million people are not connected even to the [power] grid,” said Luft, “When you talk to these people all you have to do is drive 10 minutes from the center of Bangalore to the slums there and ask them about climate change. And they’ll tell you: ‘We want electricity, we want it today, we want it cheap, we don’t care how you make it.’”

     Luft warned people gathered for a Washington, D.C. conference hosted by the left-wing Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that the movement risks losing a huge constituency if the oil problem isn’t solved. CSPI is a pro-regulation group that often attacks businesses over food issues. The organization was putting on its fourth national Integrity in Science Conference co-sponsored by a number of liberal organizations and publications including Mother Jones, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Earthjustice and the Center for Progressive Reform.

     Calling OPEC an “oil cartel,” Luft accused the group of oil exporting nations of imposing the “biggest regressive tax” on the poor because they will not increase output. But the solution Luft proposed was not increased oil production.

     Instead, Luft called for more government intervention – in this case a mandate for flex-fuel vehicles which he claimed cost $100 per car to make. Luft didn’t say where that cost estimate came from, but according to his NPR Marketplace commentary on March 18 that is actually an “extra $100” per car. As small as it sounds, that could be difficult for already struggling U.S. auto manufacturers like G.M. and Ford.

     “The most important thing our government can do is break the monopoly of oil in the transportation sector,” said Luft. “Why is it? We are putting on the road, cars, that run on nothing but petroleum?” It is the “role” of government to enable every car sold in America to be a “multi-fuel car” by mandating flex-fuel vehicles which, according to Luft, would result in free market competition. Luft didn’t mention the economic toll such a plan could take on auto manufacturers or oil companies and the many employees and investors that rely on those industries for income.

     Luft was participating in a session titled, “Beyond the Phony ‘Debate:’ Government Science & the Climate Crisis.”