Saturday, September 29, 2007

Power Workers wade into election

Like it or not, coal plants are a fact of life here in Ontario. And I live a short drive away from the biggest one in the free world -- Nanticoke. It's a massive polluter. And no party's plans to get rid of it and the other thermal plants are truly credible.

And with less than two weeks to go, guess who gets desperate? The Power Workers' Union (officially, CUPE 1000). They took out 3/4 page ads today in a number of major newspapers extolling the virtues of clean coal -- saying that with scrubbers and other technology, greenhouse gas emissions can be cut by about 20% at source (with the worst gases cut by up to 96%). This is the line the US coal industry has been trying to spin in America for years as part of its spin to do anything to get America not to sign on to international treaties.

I wasn't quite expecting it from the unions, who in their material also turn thumbs down on solar, wind, biomass and other alternate sources (saying it's both too expensive and the rated power is far greater than what's actually produced); point out natural gas is too volatile price wise (and there is a ring of truth in that); and suggest conservation won't even begin to address growing demand due to population growth, especially as people find ways to "leapfrog" the greenbelt zones. As for water power, they say that's way off into the future while negotiations are ongoing with First Nations. (That didn't stop Québec, which produces way more electricity than Ontario does -- 60% more.)

And guess what their other choice is? The old standby, or in ther power business the other half of base alongside water -- nuclear. That's a story in itself; given our experience with the cost overruns at Darlington and the way overdue (and overbudget) refurbishments of Bruce and Pickering.

It's their focus on coal, though, that I find perplexing.

Clean coal is out there, as is the technology to burn it. I won't dispute that. And until Ontario takes a more responsible approach in generation choices, it's probably going to be a stopgap measure and a costly one.

But if nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide and mercury emissions are cut, then what pollutants will take their place? Just last week, the Montréal Protocol had to be updated. Seems that that was an easy treaty to negotiate way back in 1987 because the petrochemical industry had a ready standby for CFC's (the new kid on the block was HCFC's) but recently it was learned that while the ozone hole was starting to repair itself, it would go back to how it was (the big hole again) by 2050 because HCFC's only slowed the damage, not eliminated it. Who knows what the new replacement for the third generation will do?

The same goes with clean coal. Has anyone done an assessment about what damage clean coal will do that dirty coal doesn't? Nanticoke has long been an irritant for Buffalo -- just 50 km or so to the east. We substitute one bad thing for another, and it sure won't make them any happier. Let alone we have to inhale that stuff too.

Certainly the union has the right to speak out just like any other group during the election. But their proposed solutions could only create more problems. And before we jump into anything, we need to consider what's best for us in the short and long terms. At best, clean coal is a bandage -- a temporary measure. We need to be thinking about more responsible solutions than that.

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1 comment:

Oldschool said...

Remember how the enviro-whacks didn't want "Nuclear" 30 odd years ago . . . so you got coal. Countries like France have dozens of nuclear generating plants, which are emission-free, but then again these enviro-whacks are the same ones who got DDT banned (much to the chagrin of millions of africans who died of Malaria). Remember when these nuts went on about the "Population Bomb", Global Cooling and now its Global Warming.
Like they have no credibility left . . . except of course with the loney-left!!!