Coal-fired news-A A +A
Monday, July 9, 2012
THE news on the 70-megawatts (MW) coal-fired power plant at the Cádiz City Port Zone seems as clear as mud. Or as dark as coal. The details are that murky.
The Sun.Star Bacolod news item said that the Philippine Power Corp. (PPC), a conglomeration of Filipino and Chinese businesspersons, is serious in its plans of putting up a coal-fired power plant.
I have to admit I’m stumped. I googled PPC for more background materials. Alas, the popular Web search engine failed me—a rare experience. Maybe the Cádiz city government can enlighten us with more details. Who are these Chinese investors? What is this coal-fired technology that they will build in Cádiz?
My apprehension is that Mayor Escalante seems keen on embracing cast-off technology. Much like the case when the Philippines promoted DDT long after countries such as the US have imposed a ban on its use.
I remember Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” that catalogued the ecological impacts of the indiscriminate spraying of DDT in the US and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on ecology or human health.
Now Cádiz City is on the verge of embracing the coal-fired version of the DDT-use model. This is an ukay-ukay mindset brought to the extreme.
In 2008, James E. Hansen and eight other scientists published the 38-page journal article “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” which called for phasing out coal power completely by the year 2030.
With the approaching phase-out of 66 gigawatt coal-fired power plants, coal-fired power is undeniably on the decline in the US.
While the new wave of coal-fired plants have developed cutting-edge technological advancements to remove most of the nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and other acid-rain pollutants, these new plants do nothing to control carbon emissions of 125 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.
Between 2001 and late 2009, an upswell in American public opposition to new coal-fired power plants led to the cancellation of more than 100 coal-fired power plants.
Admittedly, China is completing the construction of new coal-fired power plants at a rate of 2-3 per week. The number of coal-fired power stations in China multiplied from just over 10 gigawatts (GW) in 2002 to over 80GW in 2006.
But are we supposed to be impressed with these dubious “accomplishments?” Even among China’s newly built plants, most use cheaper old and inefficient pollutive technology. Only about 60 percent of the new plants are being built using newer technology that is highly efficient, but more expensive.
But if it’s any consolation, Prof. Joanna Haigh, at Imperial College London, commented that China’s coal-fired plants offered the world a reprieve from global warming: “The researchers are making the important point that the warming due to the CO2 released by Chinese industrialization has been partially masked by cooling due to reflection of solar radiation by sulfur emissions.”
It’s a case of fighting fire with fire, of sulfur pollution to ward off carbon dioxide pollution, with the attendant risk of inviting more acid rains. In lieu of extreme weather aberrations which the US is suffering from one of its worst heat waves, we get chemicals in acid rain that can cause paint to peel, corrosion of steel structures such as bridges, and erosion of stone statues.
But that’s it—a reprieve. Dr. Haigh warned that “On longer timescales, with cleaner emissions, the warming effect will be more marked.”
In the case of Cádiz, it’s on the point of choosing for the rest of us between the devil and the deep-blue sea.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 10, 2012.