Energetic debate

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND THE ENERGY INDUSTRIES IMPLEMENTATION AND IMPACTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION Edited by Nicola Steen Earthscan Publications Ltd and Royal Institute of International Affairs US $15.95

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015 | 03:16:47 AM

Market grabber: coal will be t (Credit: Pradip Saha)THE extraction, transportation and conversion of fuels and the end-use of energy have resulted in a wide range of environmental problems. It is tempting to believe that development is the most significant cause of the problem. But, the book under review maintains that development by its very definition is the source of both the problems and solutions. The more important constraint to development is not deple tion of energy resources. In fact, energy reserves are greater today than at any time in human history.

It, however, does not question the resource intensive pattern of development adopted by the developed countries, which have accelerated the stresses on the environment. Past environmental legislation have forced energy industries towards high cost to clean up or ameliorate the damage done.

The editors admit the basic inability of the contributors to agree on a single definition of sustainable development. The book also fails to look at energy needs and sustainable development as a central question of survival in developing countries. It perpetuates the dualism that prevails in most Western analyses of global issues of resource- sharing and development aid. It fails to recognise the fact that in several pockets of developing countries, the health and welfare of a large number of communities have deteriorated in direct proportion to energy extracted from their region, be it thermal power stations or large hydroelectric projects.

However, the book righ- tly points out that coal use will be the mainstay of the energy sector and its consumption will continue to increase over the next 30 years, particularly in the developing countries. There is a comprehensive analysis of the 20 years of energy conservation and promotion of renewable energy. Regulatory measures, with the best of intentions, can have unexpected and counter-productive results.

"The lessons learnt from these 20 years of experimentation are instructive to anyone interested in legislating on energy policy," says Nicola Steen. Indian energy planners ought to sit up and listen.

The book offers an interesting analysis of the linkages between the three vital components of human civilisation - energy, environment and development. It is compulsory reading for development policyrnakers, researchers in energy and environment, investors in energy projects and tech- nologies and legislators of all hues.

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