Rick Perry's Fossil Fuel Comments Are Dumber In Context
Rick Perry recently spoke at an energy policy discussion, where he suggested that introducing more fossil fuels to "Africa" could help stop sexual assault:
"But also from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people's lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it's going to play a positive role."
After you eat your way through the word salad, what Rick Perry seems to suggest is that fossil fuels make lightbulbs turn on. Those lightbulbs shine "righteousness" on acts of sexual assault, stopping them, somehow. This is a bit of a stretch. First of all, fossil fuel is not the only source of energy. I assume this energy policy conference discussed the merits of different forms of energy, not "should we have electricity or not." So somehow making the connection from fossil fuel, to electricity, to lightbulbs, to stopping sexual assault, is like trying to squeeze water from a stone (if that water is "ghoulishly using sexual assault to shill for fossil fuels").
Furthermore, we can't assume that the mere presence of light would stop sexual assault. Studies on the effects of lighting on crime are not so conclusive. Though to be fair, it's hard to say conclusively whether the findings of these studies would be applicable to communities completely lacking electricity infrastructure. Besides, there are merits in promoting better electrical infrastructure for public safety. So maybe there's more context to Rick Perry's quote that makes it a little less tone deaf?
Sadly, this is Rick Perry we're talking about, so no. His full quote makes things worse. He starts out by saying, "I just got back from Africa..." Alright hold on. Where in Africa? Which country? Africa is a huge continent. It's not one giant rural area with no electrical grid. Anyways, Rick Perry never specifies, it's all just "Africa," a dogwhistle for "undeveloped."
He continues, "I think I heard a lady say there are people dying. Let me tell you where people are dying, is in Africa, because of the lack of energy they have there." Unfortunately I don't have the full transcript of the conference, but I can only assume that the "lady" he is refuting (probably a professional person who might deserve a title better than "a lady") may have spoken about deaths due to fossil fuel use. And hey, even if that's not what he was responding to, apparently there are studies that look into deaths due to climate change and fossil fuel usage, which could be especially high in countries lacking electrical infrastructure like Ghana, a country within the continent of Africa. So Rick Perry could be partially right, that a lack of electrical infrastructure can be a public safety issue... which is also likely exacerbated by climate change and pollution. If only we had some other energy source, something... alternative-ey.
Perry continues, "And it's going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa..." again with referring to "Africa" like it's a country full of villages. Also, again, why are fossil fuels the only option? Sorry, I interrupted. Continue, Rick Perry: "...In Africa, where a young girl told me to my face, 'one of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I'm not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people...'"
Let's assume this is an accurate quote. This girl told Rick Perry electricity is important to her. Not "fossil fuels." They're two different things. Sure, fossil fuels can power electricity, but so can other alternative forms of energy. And you know what else causes "fumes literally killing people?" It rhymes with shmossil shmules.
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