Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

On Coal

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Coal is bad, all right? Coal is not the solution to our energy problems. Coal is not the solution to anything. HuffPo elaborates.

To understand the conflict over coal, look at Taiyuan and the surrounding Shanxi Province, the country’s top coal-producing region _ and one of its most polluted.

Almost overnight, coal has turned poor farmers in this city of 3 million people into Mercedes-driving millionaires, known derisively as “baofahu” or the quick rich. Flashy hotels display chunks of coal in the lobby, and sprawling malls advertise designer goods from Versace and Karl Lagerfeld. Real estate prices have doubled, residents say, and construction cranes fill the skyline.

A museum in Taiyuan celebrates all things coal. Amid photos of smiling miners, coal is presented as the foundation of the country’s economic development, credited with making possible everything from the railroad to skin care products.

“Today, coal has penetrated into every aspect of people’s lives,” the museum says in one of many cheery pronouncements. “We can’t live comfortably without coal.”

Yet the cornstalks lining a highway outside the city 254 miles southwest of Beijing are covered in soot. The same soot settles on vegetables sold at the roadside, and the thick, acrid smoke blots out the morning sun. At its worst, the haze forces highway closures and flight delays.

With pressure to clean up major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, particularly in the run-up to next year’s Beijing Olympics, the central government is turning increasingly to provinces such as Shanxi to meet the country’s power demands.

“They look at polluted places like Taiyuan and say it’s so polluted there so it doesn’t matter if they have another five power plants,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior fellow at Resources For the Future, an American think tank that found links between air pollution and rising hospital admissions in Taiyuan.

“I visited these power plants and there is no concept of pollution control,” he said. “They sort of had a laugh and asked, ‘Why would you expect us to install pollution control equipment?'”

Written by gerrycanavan

November 4, 2007 at 11:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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