The Not­ley Gov­ern­ment’s anti-coal doc­trine

The McLeod River Post - - Front Page -

Dear Edi­tor:

As the Not­ley gov­ern­ment de­lib­er­ately knocks a dozen or more of Al­berta’s coal­fired elec­tri­cal plants out of busi­ness, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing a few facts about the in­dus­try. Glob­ally, about a third of all en­ergy and 40 per cent of the world’s elec­tric­ity comes from coal.

While Al­berta is clos­ing down 5,800 megawatts of re­li­able and low-cost coal-fired elec­tric­ity, China is adding nearly ten times that amount (52,000 megawatts) of new coal plants on an an­nual ba­sis. And the Chi­nese grid al­ready pro­duces a mil­lion megawatts us­ing coal. Ja­pan re­cently an­nounced that it is go­ing ahead with 45 new coal fired elec­tri­cal plants. And it’s ironic, that since the Not­ley gov­ern­ment shut down our low-cost coal-fired elec­tric­ity, there are times when Al­berta is now buy­ing coal-fired elec­tric­ity from Mon­tana to meet the needs of our pro­vin­cial grid.

About 80 per cent of China’s elec­tric­ity comes from coal and in In­dia the num­ber is nearly the same. Pak­istan is spend­ing $35 bil­lion from China, to build 9.5 gi­gawatts of new coal-fired ca­pac­ity. (Cana­di­ans might also be in­ter­ested to know that when it comes to ship­ping coal, North Amer­ica’s big­gest coal ex­port­ing port is not in Vir­ginia or North Carolina, it’s Van­cou­ver, BC.)

About 44 per cent of Ger­many’s elec­tri­cal needs comes from coal, and Ger­many mostly burns dirty lig­nite coal, which it has in abun­dance. The Amer­i­cans are com­mit­ted to ex­pan­sion of coal, in in­stances where low-cost nat­u­ral gas might not be avail­able or vi­able. On­tario’s anti-coal pol­icy un­der suc­ces­sive Lib­eral gov­ern­ments has been a fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter, driv­ing away tens of thou­sands of man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs due to run­away elec­tric­ity prices, and cre­at­ing what is known by many as en­ergy poverty—a sit­u­a­tion where thou­sands of cit­i­zens are forced to choose be­tween buy­ing food or buy­ing high cost elec­tric­ity.

Al­berta holds about 70 per cent of Canada’s coal re­serves. And our coal is gen­er­ally low in sul­phur—it’s cleaner than many other types. Ad­di­tion­ally, all Al­berta’s coal­fired plants use what’s called pulverizing tech­nol­ogy, which en­sures a full and com­plete burn. And, Al­berta has some of the world’s most ad­vanced pol­lu­tion con­trol tech­nol­ogy. Al­berta has two su­per­crit­i­cal coal-fired plants which fil­ter 99.8 per cent of PM 2.5 emis­sions (Par­tic­u­late Mat­ter that is 2.5 mi­crons in di­am­e­ter or less).

The Not­ley gov­ern­ment said that to im­prove hu­man health, it is shut­ting down the prov­ince’s ef­fi­cient and low cost gen­er­at­ing sites. At first glance, this cer­tainly seems like a worth­while goal, un­til one looks at En­vi­ron­ment Canada’s data. In terms of af­fect­ing air qual­ity, in 2011, En­vi­ron­ment Canada says that coal fired plants in Al­berta emit­ted less than one-half of one per­cent (0.44 per cent) of hu­man caused PM 2.5 emis­sions.

Coal plants emit­ted 1,800 tonnes of PM 2.5. Wild­fires emit­ted 1,715,500 tonnes and dust from roads emit­ted 213,100 tonnes. Even res­i­den­tial fire­places emit­ted nearly twice as much PM 2.5 as Al­berta’s elec­tri­cal coal plants. This low cost, ef­fi­cient coal sys­tem has been a key part of Al­berta’s past eco­nomic suc­cess.

The un­for­tu­nate fact is that elec­tri­cal pol­icy rooted in an ide­o­log­i­cal op­po­si­tion to coal can’t be im­ple­mented with­out a steep and un­nec­es­sary price—bil­lions. Se­cond, de­spite the anti-coal rhetoric from the Not­ley gov­ern­ment and in­di­vid­u­als like Ot­tawa’s Cather­ine McKenna, the world’s larger in­dus­trial coal users are not buy­ing into anti-coal doc­trines.

Na­tions that have moved fur­ther down the road than Al­berta with car­bon taxes and ever grow­ing high cost re­new­ables, are eas­ing back on what they’re do­ing or even mov­ing back. The fi­nan­cial and hu­man costs, are sim­ply pro­hib­i­tive.

Stu­art Tay­lor, Hin­ton

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