, Lawmakers from both parties countered that the US-backed financial institutions involved in the initiative – the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, and the Export-Import Bank – do not spend taxpayer money and in fact create US jobs by boosting economic activity.
Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly denounced Brooks’s view as “dangerous” and said of the act: “It’s not just ‘altruism,’ it’s enlightened self-interest.”
“I don’t want to be the person who has to answer the next generation, ‘Why is Africa-Chinese trade the dominant trade in that part of the world and we don’t even have a slice of it?’ And the answer is because somebody, somewhere, 20 years before said we can’t afford it,” Connolly said.
Obama had promoted electricity as the next big goal for the United States in Africa after his predecessor, George W. Bush, worked with Democrats to fight diseases including HIV/AIDS and former president Bill Clinton helped jumpstart trade.
But the bill had been held up as corporations pushed to ease existing requirements that OPIC steer clear of carbon-intense projects.
General Electric said it supported renewable energy but that efforts in Africa also needed other sources, such as gas.
In a compromise, the bill does not address the issue. The fight was partially diverted as Congress took up OPIC funding when drafting the $1.1 trillion spending bill for fiscal year 2014.
Environmentalists argued that major fossil fuel projects have proven to be a failure in much of Africa and that US investment could encourage more innovative clean energy in a continent expected to be hard hit by climate change.
One, the anti-poverty group co-founded by U2 frontman Bono, pressed for passage of the legislation.
Tom Hart, the group’s US executive director, said that the bill “shows the best face of America.”