Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Aboitiz Power Co. and the Problems of Coal

While there is a growing movement to alternative energy, intentional community, and other ecologically non-destructive social initiatives around the world, corporate profiteers like the AboitizPower Co. here in Davao are still contesting to suck out the remaining few healthy resources of the world and to sell them back to the community along with various dangerous toxins and heavy metals. 

Despite protests from local residents of Davao city, especially in the nearby communities, the construction of the Binugao Toril coal power plant is almost finished. Its defenders still bravely push the project and openly justify the lies they spread around such as “ducks being saved by a coal plant” somewhere in Luzon, “hundreds of trees being planted” in some parts of Mindanao, and other false information deliberately manufactured to convince the people to accept this project.

In a hearing in City Hall here in Davao City last January 17, 2014, protectors of Aboitiz Power Co. presented different excuses for this project. According to them, Aboitiz Co. is doing a good job in “abiding the necessary regulations” for the safety of the plant and “providing the important trainings” for the operation to be efficient. They claimed that they have conducted trainings and capacity buildings among the health workers and other stakeholders of this huge, expensive, dirty, destructive mega-project. They claimed that they are doing their best in maintaining the research, monitoring, and comparative studies important for the safety of the operation. They insist that people need to be proactive rather than reactive meaning they want the people to support this very pollutant source of energy. They also rationalized the use of ground water for the maintainance and functioning of their coal plant.

All of these claims are unproven, so very easy to utter in public especially when the media is also supportive to the capitalist mega-structures that provide huge amount of money to the government, not only in the local but also in the international arena. Everywhere in the world people are opposing coal energy, especially native people, because of its known destructive impacts to both any life and the environment but many states especially in America find it difficult because big energy companies like these spend millions of dollars every year to keep their business protected by corrupt politicians. Like oil industries, coal industries undermine political role through lobbying and using its “dirty money” to keep up its dirty energy. According to the Sight Line Daily website, in the US:

“Even in the Northwest, Big Coal and Oil are dumping train loads of cash on our democracy—almost $5 million since 1999—and the main recipients are hewing to the dirty-energy line. These figures actually understate dirty-energy political money dramatically. They reflect campaign contributions made by energy companies and their key employees. They ignore contributions made by major investors in these companies and the huge sums of political money that filter to candidates or their election through the bank accounts of lobbyists, PACs, and Super-PACs. Think of these figures as the tip of the iceberg: the visible part but not the most dangerous part.”

For more data and concrete information about how these companies play their sure-win gamble, please check this link:

Super-consumer countries like the United States and Europe are the most wasteful users of electricity. Places like these contribute so much plastic and other wastes products and pollute air and water of the world, and yet they are the ones to dictate other countries how to manage ecological problems. But even in the “developing world” like the Philippines, more and more people are consuming useless electronic gadgets just for the sake of having one. Many working people consume things and devices they really don’t need. Many parents love to work a lot to buy their kids new cellphone and video games. In a call center, for example, people buy tab or ipod without really an idea why they are doing it. In most of the establishments also, huge devices and lights that consume so much electricity are kept open all through the day. Places like malls, empty private hospitals, and other business establishments use majority of the city’s energy to keep its profit running while the people below who do not benefit from these businesses pay the compensation. For how many years, these companies monopolizing the energy sources of the Philippines (water and electricity) are profiting huge amount of money every year so it’s time to take back these technology and give it to the hands of the people. It’s time to stop this pathology driven by these oppressive capitalist cancer-machines that swallow our environment and destroy many communities.

Half the electricity in the U.S. today still comes from burning coal, the dirtiest energy source on the planet. Mountaintop removal is a human and ecological drama wreaking havoc on coalfield communities, folks downwind and downstream of coal-burning power plants, and all of us faced with catastrophic climate change. In the local situation, many experts say coal is totally not needed to run our society and its “sacred” activities. Consumerism, same as everywhere, is always a very effective excuse for maintaining this very filthy source of energy. Although coal helped a lot in building our modern civilization and maintaining its “elegant” lifestyle especially in the west, we can certainly live without it since free and “fair” energy is already known. Sadly, these alternatives were made unavailable to the public due to business and political reasons. Coal burning produces hundreds of millions of tons of solid waste products annually, including fly ash, bottom ash, and flue-gas desulfurization sludge that contain mercury, uranium, thorium, arsenic, and other heavy metals. There are severe health effects caused by burning coal.According to the reports issued by the World Health Organization in 2008 and by environmental groups in 2004, coal particulates pollution are estimated to shorten approximately 1,000,000 lives annually worldwide, including nearly 24,000 lives a year in the United States. Historically, coal mining has been a very dangerous activity and the list of historical coal mining disasters is a long one. Underground mining hazards include suffocation, gas poisoning, roof collapse and gas explosions. Open cut hazards are principally mine wall failures and vehicle collisions. In the US alone, more than 100,000 coal miners have been killed in accidents over the past century, with more than 3,200 dying in 1907 alone.

It is proven and obvious that the coal power plant can lead to catastrophic ecological results because it will exhaust the environment and pollute the water with heavy metals and other toxic materials. Despite the fact that there is “no safe and clean” coal energy since history, and there never will be, AboitizPower Co.’s corporate lobbyists insists the opposite and make fool of the people by presenting ridiculous claims. To justify it’s every actions, AboitizPower co. uses lies and make people insecure such as claiming that “there will be a projected shortfall of energy in Mindanao from 2013-2018”. This is to impose its plan to increase the capacity of the 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant to 645 MW. Despite the opposition from different sectors and environment networks, the local council granted the approval for the coal-fired power plant. Although it is well known that many communities around the world resisted and risks their lives against coal, many local politicians and “public figures” ignore and do not support the call on banning coal. It is up to us people in the grassroots to fight more effectively for the sake of our children. Coal is not only dirty, but also ecologically toxic and expensive therefore not sustainable so why not shut these pollutants down?

Balsa Mindanao (BM), a local network opposing coal, said that the 300 MW coal operation will require 172.8 million gallons of fresh water and 10.5 million drums of salt water everyday, which will compete with the people’s source of fresh water for daily needs. BM added that “there are a lot of other safe and clean renewable energy sources that could cater to the needs of the city.” Currently, there are about 11 coal-fired power plants operating in the country, with 10 more to be built before end of 2015. That’s a lot for an archipelago like the Philippines, and many of these coal plants are not known here in the country. These companies are operating almost in secret and up to now most of the impacts and operations of these industries are undocumented and unheard. People need to be vigilant and critical to these kinds of companies that are shamelessly destroying our environment. Honestly, we need to inform more people and organize mass protest (or even direct action, if you want) to stop these industries.