According to Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director of the World Bank, energy poverty implies that “poor people are the least likely to have access to power, and they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.” The key to solving energy poverty likely lies in the choice of power, with renewable resources being both the cheaper and environmentally cleaner option.

Misconceptions of Renewable Energy

The term renewable energy often conjures up images of developed, wealthy nations experimenting with different resources while using the most modern, up-to-date technology. However, renewable energy is now spreading to the farthest corners of the earth, achieving goals of environmental and economic sustainability. Renewable energy is often thought of as a luxury, but in some parts of the world, it has become a necessary way of life.

According to World Bank data, a large number of poor countries rank as some of the top users for renewable energy. Joining the ranks of eco-friendly Albania, Paraguay and Iceland are Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique and many other African countries. Falling at number 16, three-quarters of Kenya’s electricity production is derived from renewable resources, especially hydropower. In fact, developed countries, in general, lagged behind poorer countries in their use of renewable resources.

Renewable Resources: Budget and Environmentally Friendly

Utilizing renewable resources to create energy is not only environmentally friendly but also budget-friendly for many communities. The U.S. based nonprofit EarthSpark recently set up a solar microgrid in Haiti, which is an affordable energy solution for homes and businesses. Microgrid users pay for the service in advance, ensuring that customers only use the energy that they are able to afford.

Another benefit of renewable energy is that new technology often brings along new employment opportunities. In Haiti, 109 entrepreneurs were trained to work with and market microgrid technologies.

Countries still bypassing the usage of renewable resources for coal need to realize that solving energy poverty requires, as Huffington Post writer Edward Cavanough notes, the “pragmatic use of local and sustainable energy sources to meet immediate and long-term demand while fostering sustainable growth.” Renewable resources are the energy of the future, and it’s in the world’s best fiscal and environmental interest to utilize them.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

Since 1997, Israel has received $3.1 billion annually in foreign aid from the United States. The agreement began almost two decades ago, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a join session of congress to establish a goal for economic independence.

“Israel’s gross domestic product is at about $250 billion a year, and its per capita income is about $33,000 a year.”

Considering the nation’s level of economic development, the aid could be much more beneficial in other areas. The United Nations Human Development Index currently ranks Israel at 16th in the world and life expectancy at birth is at 81 years—two years higher than the United States itself. Israel has also been the top recipient of United States foreign aid for over the past 30 years.

The question therefore arises, how does a developed nation with per capita gross domestic product on the same level as the European Union average, receive the most amount of aid from the United States?

The answer is riddled with politics and is primarily concerned with influence in the Middle East region. The vast majority of U.S. aid to Israel actually goes to supporting Israel’s military.

The U.S. presently funds about one quarter of Israel’s defense budget.

Much of this aid ends up going to the Israel’s weapons industries. Accordingly, it is not the people of Israel who receive the majority of the aid. In fact, “replacing all American aid would cost Israelis about 1 percent of their income per year,” which is a modest figure considering that the funds could be going to developing nations.

Recent polls show that when asked about the U.S. federal budget, U.S. citizens believe that 28 percent of the budget goes to foreign aid and that the percentage ought to be reduced to 10%. In actuality, less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid.

Considering that much of that 1 percent goes to the economically stable nation of Israel, other programs or nations could use the money much more efficiently.

The U.S. and Israel have had a longstanding alliance, which has contributed to their agreement in military funding. However, considering the purpose of foreign aid, contemporary third world nations facing popular suffering and instability have a far greater need for the help.

Jugal Patel

Sources: Economonitor, Le Monde
Photo: IMEMC