Ghost of the coal fuel

LIKE the ghost of the Christmas past, the issue of a coal fired power plant is haunting Negros once again. It seems that the proponents have never learned their lessons.

Time and again it is made clear – the people of this province simply don’t like a coal powered plant. There is actually no arguing about its deleterious effect on human health. That is a given and people refuse to listen to trite arguments in its favor.

I had been to a coal-fired power plant in California and garbage to energy plant in New Jersey and both are acceptable to the people there. I guess the idea was well presented, defensible if you may, or arguably for the better of the whole society.

Maybe also the proponents of the coal burning plant were able to present a credible and convincing argument and proof that such a plant is good for all – health matters included.

Under the present condition, the minds of the people of Negros are simply against it – any proposition will be met with strong objections. Environmentalists and politicians, and in the case of the proposed plant in San Carlos City, Church leaders are against it.

They are believed to have studied the matter more deeply than most thus are able to convince the populace that coal fired power plant is bad.

There was a time when the argument in favor of coal was that we have no or very little source of electricity. Necessity, it was argued knows no law. Either we will have pollution or no electricity at all. The geothermal power plant in Oriental Negros held a promise but all they were able to deliver was – well, a promise. They destroyed the forest and they left it without a single watt of electricity. They even left in such a hurry that they abandoned some of their equipment to rot in Mambukal.

We have now several solar power plants that promised hundreds of megawatts of power, but as the proposed coal plant purports to show, they are not enough. In fact, we are paying for them, mandatory subsidies, without being delivered from power shortages. How about taking away the subsidies and let these solar farms prove they are the better alternative?

One major objection to coal as fuel is the obnoxious smoke they emit. Actually people are not keen about smoke from charcoal (coal they are as well) as pollutants because we love chicken inasal and all sorts of grilled food. Bacolod even propagates the broiled chicken, skewered or otherwise, and not minding the huge amount of pollutants from those pits. Charcoal is just as polluting as coal – they are family.

People also don’t mind the smoke billowing out of the chimneys of sugar mills and the burning cane fields. They are income generating for a great majority of the people. The coal fired power plants make their owners richer – that’s a problem.

An international conference going on in Poland said that world’s temperature has risen 3 degrees Celsius since the last century. The change in temperature has caused rivers to dry up, iceberg to melt and increase the volume of water in the sea. Wild fires as experienced lately in California, Australia and Spain will occur more often. The environmentalists predict the sea level will rise so high some lowlands would be swallowed up.

There are hundreds of scientists who paint the worst case scenario. While there are adverse effects in some places, there are also beneficial results in others. Because of this variation, there remains the issue of whether indeed climate change is good or bad.

Geologists confirm that the world’s climate had been changing since the earth was created. Negros, for instance, was once under water. Had the climate remained constant we would still be under water. However, when we were over the water, the climate changed again and cut us off from mainland Asia. Otherwise we would be walking to China and no West Philippine Sea controversy.

I believe the Creator is wiser than all of us combined and He knows what is good for us. In the meantime, we cannot afford to be breathing polluted air, from coal or bagasse powered mills or inasal charcoal pits.

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