US energy secretary claims fossil fuels "prevent sexual assaults in Africa"

America's largest environmental group has warned that Mr Perry is unfit for his position

US energy secretary claims fossil fuels "prevent sexual assaults in Africa"

File photo US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, 18-Jul-2017. Image: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Press Association Images

The US secretary of energy has attempted to justify the use of fossil fuels by claiming they could prevent sexual assault in African villages.

The Republican was speaking about the importance of electricity in developing countries and African villages, and added that it could "shine a light" on the perpetrators of sexual assaults.

Speaking at an event sponsored by Axios and NBC News, Perry said electricity was important "from the standpoint of sexual assault.”

“When the lights are on, you have light that shines the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts," he said.

"[From the standpoint] of how you really affect people's lives, fossil fuels... play a role in that.

“I happen to think it's going to play a positive role."

The energy secretary's comments came amid a wave of sexual assault allegations in Hollywood and Westminster.

Unfit to lead

Perry's comments have been criticised by the Sierra Club, America's largest environmental group.

The organisation’s executive director Michael Brune said "it was already clear that Rick Perry is unfit to lead the department of energy.”

“But to suggest that fossil fuel development will decrease sexual assault is not only blatantly untrue, it is an inexcusable attempt to minimise a serious and pervasive issue.

"Women, and particularly women of colour, are among the most severely impacted by the climate crisis, and it is these same communities that are most at risk of sexual assault."

Energy department press secretary Shaylyn Hynes told The Hill that Mr Perry made the comments after hearing stories of how electricity improves life in African villages.

She said: "One person told him about how light can be a deterrent to sexual assault and security in remote areas. Those powerful stories stuck with him and that is what he was sharing with the crowd."

Greenhouse gases

Mr Perry said he was challenging an "inaccurate narrative" that fossil fuels are harmful because they cause climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the US.

Experts predict a series of weather-related disasters if there is no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Between 1981 and 2010, there were, on average, 3,000 people killed annually by weather-related events; however this could soar to 152,000 annually between 2071 and 2100, according to a study in the Lancet Planetary Health journal.

Earlier this week, the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change warned that the average number of weather-related disasters recorded between 2007 and 2006 had risen by 46% since 2000.

Last year was the hottest since records began according to a recent report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It marks the third year in a row of record highs for both land and sea surface temperatures.