We could learn from the Middle East, Africa

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Jobless numbers for August were released last week. Once again, West Virginia has the highest rate of unemployment in the country – and that rate went up, from 7.5 percent in July to 7.6 percent in August. The Associated Press can so clearly see the connection between the actions of federal agencies and the figures released by the Labor Department that its story on last month’s jobless figures included the line “falling demand for coal has devastated West Virginia.”

In fact, other numbers highlighted include South Dakota, which had been seeing oil and natural gas become a larger part of its economy. South Dakota saw the highest percentage decline in employment in August. Texas lost 13,700 jobs.

Many in Washington, D.C., claim the assault on carbon-based fuels and the people who depend on them for financial wellbeing is necessary. We have to end our reliance on fossil fuels eventually, they say. This is for the environment, for our future. We might as well get this over with.

It is a strategy akin to mutineers killing the captain of a ship before they realize none of them knows how to do his job.

There is a better way – one that would, if done right, create more jobs and a healthier economy. We can look to the Middle East and North Africa, of all places, to get some idea how it might work.

According to the Middle East Solar Industry Association, the countries in that region are expected to have a total 1,500 megawatts worth of solar projects online by the end of this year (approximately two-thirds the installed capacity at Niagara Falls); and that figure is expected to grow by nearly 2 percent year-on-year. This has been a market-driven effort, in a region where electricity prices are on the rise, and sunshine is plentiful. Dubai has put in place solar “palm trees” and the Dubai Rooftop Solar program.

Meanwhile, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, three-fourths of which are in the MENA region, pushed oil production up to a three-year high over the summer. They have not sacrificed their most important industry as they iron out problems like the cost and stability of renewable fuel sources, market demand and technology that will handle the extreme environments in the region. So, for example, the unemployment rate in the United Arab Emirates is 4.2 percent.

Imagine that.

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