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Developing world's energy needs set stage for fight

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In India, which sees itself as a rising superpower, the middle class has quadrupled to about 60 million people in the past two decades. Millions of people are eager to buy their first washing machines, refrigerators and air conditioners, which would further strain the country's overburdened power grid.

In New Delhi this summer, thousands of men, some wearing only underwear in protest, rioted over power cuts. The problem was exacerbated this year by a drought across Asia and Africa, which has caused rivers to slow to a trickle and mountain glaciers to shrink.

Just one in four Africans has access to grid electricity, according to the World Bank. More than 500 million Indians, roughly half the population, have no official access to electricity, and those who do are experiencing rolling brownouts as India's Power Ministry tries to make up for a 25 percent shortfall in electricity generation.

The developing world's dearth of power hinders prosperity and adds another layer of difficulty to daily life. In many places throughout the developing world, there are air conditioners but no air conditioning, swimming pools but no water.

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