Monday, 28 September 2015

Government inconsistent on city pollution and coal

State wide ban on smoky coal

Today, the Department of the Environment will introduce a State wide ban on "smoky" coal. While attempts to curb pollution, particularly in cities, are admirable, the Government are guilty of inconsistency in this matter. For many years, diesel has been encouraged through lower taxation with the result that diesel cars and fuel are cheaper to buy than petrol alternatives. This has resulted in increases of local emissions in built up and city areas. As economist Colm McCarthy explains :

Diesel engines give better mileage than petrol, hence causing lower emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere per kilometre travelled. But they produce higher emissions of local pollutants, including particulates and nitrogen oxide, and these are known to have adverse effects on human health, especially in built-up areas.

 Attempts to control this pollution have failed and in the wake of the Volkswagon emission scandal, its safe to say has failed miserably.

 But it is beginning to look as if a mistake has been made in Europe. Encouraging diesel to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is a worthy objective. But the control of low-level emissions from diesel through regulation seems to have failed. The European Commission is proposing a tougher testing regime, the standard bureaucratic response: if a policy fails, it needs to be intensified - always reinforce failure [sound familiar - admin note].

 So if the Government is concerned about city pollution, perhaps it can take a look at it's own failed policy in relation to motor vehicles (I have previously written about the benefits of using CNG for public transport).

And if it's concerned about coal pollution, then maybe it can take a look at Moneypoint power station and the options open to converting it to less polluting alternatives. People have a choice not to buy smoky coal, but the people of Clare and Kerry do not have a choice (except moving out of the area).

Could it be that it better suits it's owners bottom line to use cheap coal ? Then by the same logic, shouldn't ordinary people have the same right to avail of cheaper methods of heating their home ?


  1. Nothing wrong with a nice coal fire, plus a hot whiskey to go with it on a cold winters evening. Problems only arise when there are too many coal fires.

    The emission limits from a large power station are to be found in the Industrial Emissions Directive 2010/75/EC, Annex V Part 1 for those built before 2013 and Part 2 for those after 2013.

    Moneypoint is actually two stacks, the first one about 1,700 MWth and the other one half that. So for Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Dioxides (NOx) and particulates (dust) the exact same emissions will occur whether you burn coal or biomass.

    Indeed the CO2 emissions will go up for the lower calorific biomass to generate the same amount of kWhs, although some but not all of this carbon is allegedly part of this renewable gig. Either way, CO2 doesn't make any difference, but coal is cheaper, safer and does less damage to the natural environment than clearing hundreds of square kilometers of forestry.

    The other thing I was pointing out in my paper below, particularly from page 15 on, is that because of all the pollution control measures implemented in power stations over the last three decades, as part of the UNECE process, the amount of emissions remaining from this sector is a very small part of the total occurring.

    It's this Green climate change madness, which brought biomass stoves and diesel cars into urban areas, which is the real environmental problem and the stupidity which results when policies are not evaluated in advance.

    1. Thanks for this Pat.

      Of course, the green movement have diverted debate and resources away from legitimate concerns such as pollution control and towards stupid concepts such as "carbon free".

      There is no such thing as a free lunch in this world, wind turbines take considerable amounts of carbon to manufacture, export and install (1000 tonnes of concrete and 70 tonnes of steel required for their base alone) and then require grid power in periods of low wind. Hence, why their EROI is so low. Then when you add in the grid network and fast acting fossil fuel plant, they are really not worth it.

      But the green god must be satisfied.

  2. Over the years my perception of things may have changed, notwithstanding that, I've observed an acceleration of growth of plants on my farm and the wider Irish environment. Particularly woody plants. Could it be that as carbon levels increase, plants avail of it as a resource? I don't thing I need to point to the VW carbon cheating which connects to the comments above, but it surely shows the gap between the green claims made about green initiatives and the reality. The maxim "shoot first and ask questions later" come to mind.