September 27, 2017 Read More →

Debunking the Myth of Clean Coal

The Daily Star (Bangladesh):

The official narrative tries to frame the coal question as a binary choice between coal and energy poverty leading to widespread economic underdevelopment. This is a highly fallacious argument. Saying “no” to coal in no way precludes us from extending electricity coverage to off-the-grid areas. Electricity can be generated from a variety of sources and that too in an environment-friendly manner. We are supposed to believe that the supposedly low cost of generating coal power makes it the only viable option, although prima facie evidence suggests otherwise: domestic electricity tariff is skyrocketing as we embrace more coal and fossil fuel.

The Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis emphatically notes, “coal-fired electricity is no longer the economy-builder its proponents say it is… Today governments and private interests worldwide concede – even emphasise – the economic and environmental destruction of coal.” The 2017 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Report declares in no uncertain terms that renewable energy will “push coal and natural gas plants out of business by 2040” worldwide.

Indeed, renewable energy prices are plummeting across the globe contrary to our government’s claim. Recently, solar power became cheaper compared to coal-fired electricity in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The same trend is visible in the United States, China, and several other countries in Latin America and Europe. In fact, the US and China are engaged in a trade war over the plummeting prices of photovoltaic panels.

The secret to keeping coal power “cheap” is the direct and indirect subsidies such projects enjoy. The socio-ecological costs are often excluded when calculating the price of coal power. Ecological economics makes it amply clear that when the humongous costs of dealing with coal-related water contamination, waste cleanup, air pollution, health hazards, and biodiversity destruction are internalised, “cheap” coal does not remain so cheap. The taxpayers are then left to shoulder these essential but externalised costs to keep the projects floating.

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