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LETTER OF THE DAY - Don't ignore the coal hard facts

Published:Wednesday | March 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM


I am uncomfortable with the view expressed in the editorial dated February 28, 2014, which stated, "The bottom line is that coal is plentiful and cheap" as justification for building a coal-fired power plant in Jamaica.

Coal is plentiful and cheap in China, where it is used to power almost 70 per cent of the electricity generated. The editorial failed to mention that China is the largest consumer of coal in the world.

But there is no question that coal is the most polluting of the fossil fuels, and its effects are seen and felt in Beijing, which recorded the highest level of polluted air in the world up to the end of last year. Chongqing, one of the fastest-growing cities in China, which has extremely high levels of air pollution because of coal-burning in power plants and industries, estimates that the poor air quality has caused 4.63 per cent of children under 14 to suffer from asthma.

Australia, which gets more than 70 per cent of its power from coal, has calculated the number of deaths, the mortality cost, and the estimated morbidity cost (estimated at six times the mortality cost) to the country, because of emissions from coal-burning power plants and industries. They found that a new 400MW coal-burning power plant will result in 50 outright deaths at a cost of $250 million for every year of its operation.

Although it is true that coal is plentiful and cheap, the real bottom line is that coal is polluting and costly. What we still have in Jamaica is more valuable than what China's cities have lost. We should do everything we can to preserve the good as we invite investments and plan carefully for development.


Kingston 5