Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come to power in India and is coming to America to visit with President Barack Obama – but only after having already met with the leaders of ten other countries including Russia, China, and Japan.
In addition to negotiating the traps and pitfalls of national and international political
power, the new prime minister is faced at home
with a different kind of power problem. This
summer has been one of the worst on record for
blackouts of electrical power in India. Having
suffered the largest power outage in history two
years ago, India has endured rolling blackouts
for weeks at a time. A major cause of these
blackouts is simply a lack of energy to keep
Indian power plants working.
Energy security offers an opportunity for the
United States and India to work
together on an issue that can substantiate their relationship as ‘one of the
defining partnerships of the 21st century,’ as President Obama has called it.
But it won’t happen unless policy
adjustments are made on both sides.
There is no secret that US-India relations have come through a rough
patch, and the US relationship may not
be as important to India as it once was.
Happy talk about shared values is not
enough. The US and India need to provide substance for their relationship
with solid achievements that benefit
both sides. With every difficulty there
is an opportunity – and the opportunity with energy and power is immense.
The US energy picture has changed
dramatically in the last decade. New
extraction technology has opened
immense reserves of natural gas while
public/private partnership has lowered
the cost of renewables, particularly
solar, significantly. The US and India
should take advantage of these developments to provide the positive
achievements the relationship needs so
But this will not be accomplished by
the United States concentrating on climate change as if it were the pre-eminent component of the energy crisis
facing India. Availability, affordability,
and security of supply all rank ahead of
environmental impact on the India
India has about 400 million people
with no electricity at all and consumes
about 700 watts per person per year
compared to the US consumption of about 13,000 watts
per person per year. India needs jobs for about 13 million
new workers who enter the job market each year.
To provide these jobs, Prime Minister Modi has invited
the world to come to India to manufacture. This simply
will not happen so long as India has some 50,000
megawatts of power generation capacity stranded because
of a lack of gas and coal.
However, if the US is to be a credible energy partner
with India, it must end its own energy protectionism that
discriminates against India in the export of gas as a country with whom the US does not have a free trade agreement and prevents the export of oil altogether.
The US must renew the authority of the US ExIm Bank
rthat has previously financed over $2 billion in Indian
imports of US solar equipment and do much more than
the paltry $125 million the US and India have devoted to
joint energy research.
For its part, India must find market-driven solutions to
the pricing of electricity and energy sourcing. With its
present command economy approach to energy and
power pricing, there will be neither the domestic nor
international investment necessary to clean up the mess
that is the present Indian energy system.
Prime Minister Modi knows how to do all these things.
They are the sorts of reforms he spearheaded as chief
minister of Gujarat and turned his home state from ener-
gy deficit to surplus. The US should be a willing and pro-
ductive partner in his initiative to solve the Indian energy
crisis by 2022.
There is much more that can be accomplished by US-
India concentration on energy. The United States and
India can use energy security as a touchstone for renewed
military and diplomatic cooperation. What happens to
energy from the Middle East is vital to both. Neither
nation can quit coal and oil immediately, but need to
move toward cleaner fuels and methods of utilization
India’s air pollution problems are not just climate
change that happens over decades, rather they are imme-
diate threats to the health of millions sickened and dying
from home cooking fires and air unfit to breathe.
If President Obama and Prime Minister Modi make
energy and electrical power a centerpiece of their talks,
they will go far to reinvigorating the US-India relation-
Raymond E Vickery Jr, who served as served as Assistant
Secretary of Commerce, Trade Development, from 1993
through 1997, played an important role in the passage of
the US-India civil nuclear agreement.
‘The new prime minister is faced at home with a different kind of power problem. This summer has been one of the worst on record for blackouts of electrical power in India… A major cause of these blackouts is simply a lack of energy to keep Indian power plants working.’
Happy talk about shared values is not enough, says
Raymond E Vickery, Jr. The US and India need to provide
substance for their relationship with solid achievements
that benefit both sides
AMI T DAVE/REU TERS