Rick Perry under fire for suggestion fossil fuels can reduce sexual assault

US energy secretary faces criticism from Sierra Club after describing girl who told him about the importance of electricity in African village

The US energy secretary, Rick Perry, has said he thinks using fossil fuels can help prevent sexual assault, sparking criticism from the Sierra Club, which accused Perry of exploiting the struggle of those most affected by climate change.

Perry, who was at an energy conference in Africa last week, said on Thursday that fossil fuels used to power electricity could help developing regions in the continent.

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