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Flogging a Trojan Horse: Putin’s war and the tussle over SA’s ...

Ideas

Flogging a Trojan Horse: Putin’s war and the tussle over SA’s energy sector

Conflict over our ‘just transition’ throws debate on world’s energy future wide open. Who to believe in propaganda war?

Columnist

My neighbour’s handyman says he hasn’t been feeling well lately, and his wife tells him it’s the news that’s making him sick. He doesn’t agree, but to please her he’s stopped buying newspapers, and he’s still got a TV in his workshop anyway. “I watch all the channels,” he tells me and he doesn’t sound that good either. News can affect you: some get sick, others get even.

News from Nigeria is that a brother there has begun re-engineering minibus taxis to convert them to electric rather than petrol power. Mustapha Gajibo, 30 years old and a university dropout, tells the interviewer with trademark enthusiasm and hubris: “As I am speaking to you now at our workshop, we are building a 12-seater bus which can cover up to 200 kilometres on one charge.’’ And he’s working on producing a solar-powered bus, so it’s not surprising his story was picked up around the world, as a rare “good news’’ story from Africa. Or just part of a subtle propaganda that wages a war while making the case for green energy?

What’s interesting about this happy news, though, is how it resonates with our experience here in SA. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, yet its fuel is heavily subsidised and expensive. SA has some 200 years of coal reserves, but in our case we simply can’t seem to get it together for long enough to mine the coal, transport it, burn it to produce steam, and have more cheap electricity than we could imagine. Unlikely, yet sadly true...

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