These Kids Need Oil and Natural Gas: 325 Million Children Live on Less Than $2 a Day
Vermont, with a population of just 625,000, consumes 16 million barrels of oil a year while Uganda, with 43 million people, uses less than 12 million barrels. The Infant Mortality Rate in Vermont is only 4 but in Uganda 56 babies out of 1,000 die within the first year of life. Massachusetts, a state with a population of 7 million, uses 450 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year and last winter had to buy gas from Russia, despite most of the state’s policymakers railing against fossil fuels. The Infant Mortality Rate in Massachusetts is less than 4.
Compare these data to the Philippines, where the Infant Mortality Rate is 15 and the population of 105 million consumes only 110 billion cubic feet of gas. Minnesota, a state with a population of less than 6 million, uses 116 million barrels of oil per year – 2.5 times as much as Myanmar with 56 million people. In Minnesota, the percentage of underweight children is 4% while in Myanmar an alarming 41% under age 5 are classified as “stunted” in the World Bank Nutrition Study.
Across the world, the pattern is clear: energy is the lifeblood of modern society and the key to a longer, better life. Based on the International Energy Agency’s latest data, over 81% of the world’s energy is provided by fossil fuels and in 2040 their contribution will be still be 74%. Fossil fuels are here to stay and the only hope of reducing the debilitating energy poverty that haunts the world and claims thousands of lives each day.
In the relatively small number of countries with adequate energy, people eat better, drink cleaner water, are healthier, are more educated, make more money, and thus live longer. In the many countries without enough energy, vast swaths of people live bleak lives that are painful and short. And the greatest victims of this energy poverty are always children - the most vulnerable segment of any society. Not surprisingly, the majority of these impoverished children are girls. More than 130 million girls do not attend school. If these girls were a country, they would be the 10th largest nation in the world.
In spite of these prevailing energy related injustices, virtually all leading Democratic candidates for President want to institute policies to outright ban or drastically reduce export of abundant U.S. oil and gas supplies to these impoverished nations and thereby condemn their children to more of the same – a seemingly unending cycle of energy poverty, illiteracy, illness and premature death.
Such proposals to eliminate exports and drastically reduce the production and consumption of oil and natural gas could only come from regions where the reliability, accessibility and affordability of these fuels is taken for granted. Such hypocrisy is easy when your children are well fed, healthy, happy and schooled - like the children in the presidential candidate states of Vermont, Massachusetts and Minnesota.
But what about the rest of the world’s children? You know, that massive group of babies, toddlers, older kids and teenagers who live in the shadows and economic backwaters of the world. Over 325 million of them live on less than $2 a day in places like Madagascar where 76% of the population lives in what the World Data Laboratory defines as “extreme poverty” and only 1 in 4 people has access to electricity.
Children from the impoverished countries have little or no access to the benefits energy from oil and gas can provide – so they live in huts with no lighting or refrigeration, their mother cooks with charcoal, wood or dung, they do not go to school because they have to help carry water and wood. They cannot read, they drink dirty water, have little access to medicine and millions of them die before they are five years old. They are disproportionately female, but they do not take piano lessons, learn to code, play softball, use the Internet, act in school plays or think about going to college. Tens of millions of them are married before they are 18 and in sub-Saharan Africa 75% of teenagers with HIV are female.
Most of these impoverished countries have severely constrained energy resources, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and many others have virtually no oil resources while Uganda has 0.1% of the world’s oil and India has 1.4 billion people but only 0.3% of global oil reserves. Over 36 million children in India live on less than $2 a day – essentially the population of California.
There but for the grace of God go Bernie Sanders’ children and grandchildren, Elizabeth Warren’s, Joe Biden’s, yours or mine. The U.S. has proven reserves of 61 billion barrels of oil and the fifth largest natural gas reserves in the world – 430 trillion cubic feet. Further, the U.S. has 24% of the world’s coal, still the backbone of the world's electric power system. We are now one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers and are on pace to potentially become the largest exporters of these essential fuels within five years.
Yet, we have leading policymakers stridently proposing to hoard these resources and deny them to the rest of the world where billions struggle in abject energy poverty. Refusing to share our God-given energy endowment would be a stain on this Nation’s claim to be a beacon for the improvement of humanity.
Frank Clemente PhD. specializes in research on the socioeconomic impact of energy policy. He has served on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, University of Wisconsin and Penn State University. The opinions expressed here are Professor Clemente’s alone and represent no institutions.