Dim Bulbs in Tajikistan
13, 2009, The Wall
globalization of bad ideas, count Tajikistan's 7.2 million people among the world's more unlucky victims. Over
their history, the Tajiks have fallen prey to the
ambitions of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and the Bolsheviks. Since its
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has become a pied-a-terre
for the region's Islamist groups, and has endured the state's unyielding
encroachment on the economy under President Emomali Rahmon, in office 15 years and running.
This history, punctuated by invasion, revolution, civil war, and
terror, has left Tajikistan the poorest and least developed of the former Soviet -stan republics.
The latest utopian project to invade Tajikistan is not military but environmental. This month, the Tajik government
banned the importation of incandescent light bulbs. The government argues that
banning the bulb will ameliorate the country's chronic energy shortages, which
result in electricity rationing and leave much of the country with only a few
hours of power per day in the winter.
This brainstorm comes straight out of the environmentalist playbook
in the West, where phasing out the Edison bulb is all the rage. But replacing a $1 incandescent with a $5 or
$10 "green" bulb is a nuisance in the developed world. In Tajikistan,
where the average monthly wage is less than $70—that is, perhaps seven
high-efficiency bulbs—it's a hardship if not an impossibility. This means that
in Tajikistan, the ban on traditional bulbs amounts to a ban on lighting.
Yet there is no logical reason for this rationing. Tajikistan has ample natural-gas reserves and hydroelectric potential, but
both are bogged down in corruption and state inefficiency.
None of this seems to bother Mr. Rahmon,
who at last month's climate conference in Geneva bragged that
Tajikistan is "in a group of countries with the lowest volume of
greenhouse gas emissions," and lamented the "intensive economic
development of countries in the region," which he complained was depleting
resources. It's hard to imagine that average Tajiks,
whose industrial production shrank some 4% last year, wouldn't trade their
pious emissions record for some of that intensive development, which might even
bring them electricity on demand. But instead of finding ways to generate more
power, the government is forcing consumers to use less.
The Tajik light
bulb boondoggle is the green agenda writ small. Environmentalists like to argue
that global warming will hurt the world's poor the worst. But in the present,
it is their agenda that is sending the Tajikistans of
the world back to the dark ages.