Sunday, June 18, 2006

Resource swap: Uranium for Oil

Developing an effective naitonal energy policy isn't just a Western concern, as editors at Zimbabwe's Sunday News demonstrated in an editorial on June 18.

Word that the country's government had forged a $1.3 billion (U.S.) deal with China for thermal power stations and coal mines prompted editors in resource-rich, energy-poor Zimbabwe to call for a comprehensive plan, because "by diversifying the energy options at our disposal, we enhance economic security." The paper sees no hope in recruiting "London or New York" as partners in energy development, and recommends turning instead to "Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Tehran, or Moscow" for assistance.

While the paper suggests that solar and wind -- along with higher capacity factors at existing coal plants -- could fill the gap in the short run, the editors say that Zimbabwe's uranium deposits may be the key to the future.

But, rather than trying to find investors willing to building nuclear plants in the country, the Sunday News recommends a trade: "For instance, an oil-producing country with enough resources to develop a nuclear power reactor could easily supply Zimbabwe with petroleum in exchange for uranium shipments."

No wonder they see the future in partnership with Tehran.

Meanwhile, one concern that never appeared the editorial: the environment. Right now, Zimbabwe, which continues to face international economic sanctions for political and human-rights abuses, is concerned almost exclusively about economic growth. As the editors said, "Companies and individuals with the capital and willingness to produce goods and provide services must not be bogged down by shortages or electricity, coal, and diesel."

Point taken, but it leaves any would-be Western support over a barrel: Drop the sanctions and start investing (while ignoring Zimbabwe's offenses), or stand by and do nothing as a rogue uranium-for-oil, emissions-be-damned economy takes off in Africa.

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