Iraq's Electric Issues: When Human Wants Trump Economic Sense
Previously published on Oct 14, 2010
Power outages in the modern world are a nuisance that come about when a hot summer day is combated by everyone cranking up their AC units or when a severe weather knocks down some power lines. Even the most protracted outages in the US, which might last weeks at the most, cannot compete with Iraq's ongoing electrical deficit. Where our grid is strained, in need of updates, and fairly inefficient, the rat's nest the Iraqis call power lines should have set the Country ablaze years ago; that is, if their power plants could push out enough juice to light up the whole country at once.
Iraq has always had a power problem, but empty political promises and scorching summer days at temperatures around 120 degree Fahrenheit, enough to literally bake the warzone Iraqis call home, have only increased their grumblings. Adding to the problem, the 2003 US invasion crushed much of the Country's infrastructure in a long-term strategic misstep. Since then, however, the US has expanded electrical capacity to 150 percent of Saddam era output, yet policies forcing Baghdad to share the power it once leeched off the rest of Country has created greater competition for power. Consequently, the most populous center is living the same reality the rest of Iraq has long known.
With new power plants coming online in the next few years, Iraqis have one major hurdle to fulfilling their energy needs: themselves. With cheap, and inefficient, Chinese electronics in the range of more and more Iraqis, power consumption keeps increasing beyond expanding capacity. Instead of following the supply versus demand curve when it comes to power, Iraqis have allowed a tech fad to drive their buying habits. Where low tech, low cost solutions, including traditional construction designed to better insult buildings against heat, once ruled, Iraqis now embrace a trend more appropriate for an electric rich region.
"Commonsense"/logic tells us buying something that can only be used a few hours a day and requires individuals to supplement their energy needs by buying gasoline for personal generators and overpaying for power from private supplier is not the best solution. It just goes to show different environments require diverse technology solutions. Meanwhile, it is interesting to see how socially we humans are experiencing the globalization of our society. "Keeping up with the Jones" is apparently more fundamental than we may have expected. As a consequence, we are experiencing a globalization of our "needs" and over generalizing our solutions to those needs. In turn, this tendency often pushes community and individuals to undertake irrational, harmful decisions versus following rational economic behavior.