No clean coal

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By Dr. Bob Ocio

Isyo ug Servicio

Thursday, December 12, 2013

“NO such thing as clean coal,” - Nixon Baban, chairman, Bangon Kagay-an, Inc.

THERE is no such thing as clean coal.

Admittedly, the technologies used by Steag State Power and the one that FDC Misamis Power Corporation intends to introduce are better than the old ones, but they are not modern as they claim them to be.

The Electrostatic Precipitator (ESP) installed on the plants' chimneys is simply a filtering device that will remove fine particulate matter from the airstream, and the circulating fluidized bed (CFB) is simply a combustion technology that controls the emission of sulfur through lime stones fed into the furnace. Many of the coal plants now retired in the United States and in China already had them. NEPC, FDC Misamis contractor is one of the biggest names in China's electric generating construction industry - thanks to it. China has to spend US$ 275B over the next five years to clean its air. Its smog has already polluted Korea's airspace, and Seoul residents have to wear masks now.

No doubt, this "clean coal technology (carbon capture & storage)" can reduce the emission of harmful toxic waste that may include gases, but whether the amount is significant, this remains to be debatable. Furthermore, there is no basis for Filinvest Group president, CEO and director Josephine Gotianun-Yap's claim on TV Patrol North Mindanao edition that FDC can reduce the emission of sulfur dioxide by as much as 95%. If this was so, why did not Filinvest disclose this 95% reduction of sulphur dioxide in its ECC (EIA) application with the DENR-EMB?

Assuming arguendo this claim is true, the remaining 5 percent of sulfur dioxide left uncurbed will still pose a danger to the health of the Cagayanons and MisOrnons given the total generating capacity of 725 MW by these three coal plants (Minergy included). A simple analogy would be that of a bottle of red wine that contains less alcohol compared to rhum or whisky. When two persons consume a bottle they would still be clear-headed, but when they consume three bottles, they will end up drunk.

The local government's program to push through with two more coal fired power plants in Misamis Oriental will bring in four more turbines on top of the three that Steag has right now. This means that they have to draw big volume of water from our rivers for the plants' cooling system and dumping the same to, where else? At Macajalar Bay, the one and only catch basin for all the waste water of these coal plants. This is truly a tragic inconsistency to the campaign of Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental to become an ecotourism destination.

That is why to me, Steag would have been enough necessary evil because to take it away at this time will result to a big drawback to the region's energy needs. Steag is a pill that we have to take in order to augment our energy requirement, but to take more than the "doctor's advice" will only expose us to a greater risk. Let us therefore advocate for mixed energy, one that will also harness the potentials of other renewable energy sources such as hydro-electric, solar and natural gases.

It is unfortunate that our government bungled so many times on its energy program. Its incompetence and lack of genuine commitment caused the dilapidation of Pulangi-Agus Hydrolectric Plant, now currently performing at 50% only from of its original capacity of 983 MW.

Once fully rehabilitated (rehabilitation cost P 1B versus Napoles & lawmakers loot of P 10B and compared to FDC coal-fired power plant cost of P31B), this will bring up our energy supply by 500 MW and meet the Mindanao Development Authority's forecasted requirement of 500 MW by 2016.

And with the completion of Thermasouth (Aboitiz) at 300 MW, Sarangani coal plant at 110 MW and Zambo coal plant (both by Alsons), all expected to be operational by 2015, Mindanao will have a surplus until the early 2020's. Therefore, these mammoth corporations and their lackeys in government are fooling us because of greed for power and money. Clearly, we don't need another Coal Fired Power Plant in Misamis Oriental anymore.

Perhaps, the more crucial question that needs to be addressed is: How much carbon dioxide can these coal plants hold back? Nowhere in all of FDC's public pronouncements has it squarely answered this apprehension. How much CO2 is emitted for every MW of electricity generated? How much carbon is emitted per hour? Per day? Per year? How much carbon can a thousand hectares of trees sequester? A kilo? A ton? There, we will understand that all these figures about carbon sequestrations capabilities of Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de oro City are all baloney.

Clearly, our government is contradicting itself, and we are faced with the grim reality that we have to fight our own government to protect ourselves. The constitutionally guaranteed right of every citizen to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment. Let us fight for this right though the heavens fall.

This is not only our sacred duty but also our moral obligation to our children and the future generations to come."

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 12, 2013.


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