Dirty diesel generators proliferate in developing countries

The good news: Access to electricity is spreading to previously unserved areas, allowing residents of rural villages to grow more crops with electrically powered irrigation pumps and connect to the rest of the world through television. The bad news: The most common power source for these communities is filthy diesel generators, which pollute the air in previously clean areas. When the choice is between clean air and TV, guess which wins? Generous government subsidies for diesel and kerosene don’t help matters. But some clean, renewable energy sources are making inroads into poor, rural areas — solar water heaters, solar-powered lanterns, biomass generators, tiny hydroelectric dams. The trick is getting locals to try something new — and getting foreign governments and foreign-aid organizations to follow up and carry through after they introduce new equipment and technologies to communities.