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30 Coal-Run Power Plants: A ‘carbon bomb’ lying in wait
Says a report by US and Australia-based environment groups on the Bangladesh plants that may go into operation by 2031
Bangladesh is likely to be hit by its own “carbon bomb” once its 30 coal-based power plants go operational altogether by 2031, says a new report.
Besides, the projects will put the country in a “trade deficit” because those will cost Bangladesh an estimated $2 billion or over Tk 170 billion annually to import coal, it says.
The report, titled “Choked by Coal: The Carbon Catastrophe in Bangladesh”, was jointly released by Australia-based Market Force that deals with environmentally sustainable economic issues and US-based 350.org that works to end the use of fossil fuels.
As co-publishers, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) and Waterkeepers Bangladesh (WKB) shared the report with the media at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity yesterday.
Coal plant developers should suspend plans to build coal power projects and utilise the capital to drive rapid deployment of renewable energy, the report recommends.
Speaking to The Daily Star over phone, Waterkeeper Alliance Council Member Sharif Jamil, who attended the press conference, said coal-based power plants are becoming obsolete all over the world and “such projects should not be continued in Bangladesh as well”.
At present, the only operational coal-fired plant in the country is the 525 MW Barapukuria plant in Dinajpur.
Tests found that the coal ash pond of the plant had significantly contaminated water in wells and irrigation water with toxic heavy metals.
The lead levels were 35-395 times higher than the WHO drinking water standards, while chromium was 8,025-18,675 times higher, according to the new report.
The coal ash pond also overflows onto cropland, contaminating food production areas, it says.
On the other hand, if the proposed 29 projects, most of which are located in three “power hubs” on the south coast at Payra, Matarbari and Maheshkhali, are built, the country’s coal power capacity would increase by 63 times, the report mentions.
Once operational, the projects, which are either under construction or at a pre-construction stage at present with the capacity to generate 33,200 megawatts electricity together, will emit 115 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually by 2031, it said.
Such a level of CO2 emission would be higher than the upper emissions of 110 MtCO2 per year estimate for the “controversial” Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the US, it added.
The 525 MW Barapukuria is much smaller than the 1,320 MW Payra, 1,200 MW Matarbari and 1,320 MW Rampal coal plants, which are currently under construction.
The Rampal plant continues to face mass protests, demanding a halt to its development as it threatens the World Heritage listed Sundarbans mangrove forest.
Also, 4,600 MtCO2 would be emitted through the operating lifetime of Bangladesh’s proposed coal plants. This is 20 percent greater than the lifetime emissions from all of the currently operating coal plants in Japan, it added.
Furthermore, all of Bangladesh’s coal-based projects are “inconsistent” with the Paris Agreement’s climate goals of “limiting global warming to well below 2 degree Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the report says.
On the other hand, the September 2019 Prices estimated the cost of importing 61 metric tonnes per annum of thermal coal as Bangladesh plans to do by 2041. The estimated cost would be $2 billion annually, it adds.
During the fiscal 2018-19, the country experienced trade deficits of $18 billion and $16 billion respectively, it says, referring to media reports.
The pipeline plants would lock Bangladesh into a huge volume of coal imports for decades. Unless exports increase significantly, coal worth billions purchased from abroad would add to the trade deficits.
Bangladesh has jumped to sixth place from 12th in the last three years in the global ranking of coal power capacity in “active development”, which includes coal plants in pre-construction and construction stages, it further says.
The report recommended that a clean, sustainable energy future is possible for Bangladesh, adding that of the 29 proposed projects, only 10 percent have progressed to construction.
Renewable energy can replace planned coal power projects as a lower cost alternative for electricity generation, it said, adding countries like China, Japan, India and the UK are investing heavily in Bangladesh’s coal power expansion.
Addressing the press conference, TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said development projects that put people’s lives in danger and cause harm to the environment cannot be accepted.
He said Bangladesh’s requirement to generate more electricity is imperative and also lauded the government’s progress made in power generation over the past decade.
However, this cannot be achieved in a “suicidal” way, he said, adding, “[The government] has developed a kind of addiction to coal-based power projects.”
Bangladesh is unique and so are its largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, and world’s longest sea beach in Cox’s Bazar. Those should be protected, Iftekharuzzaman said.
Ter wrote:Yet the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank keep on funding multi billion dollar projects in Bangladesh. Those institutions are in an excellent position to influence energy policies but they keep quiet abut it.
Multiple studies have shown that In 2018, the U.S. registered the largest annual increase in oiland gas production ever recorded by a single country. Methane leaks from many small and large projects are undetected or unmeasured, and therefore unreported.
"This analysis shows that we're heading in the wrong direction and really need to slow emissions growth from the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries."
Planet-heating pollution from the U.S. oil, gas, and petrochemical industries could rise about 30% by 2025 compared with 2018 because of additional drilling and 157 new or expanded projects "fueled by the fracking boom," an environmental watchdog group warned Wednesday.
That estimated emissions increase is equal to "as much greenhouse gas pollution as 50 new coal-fired power plants," the U.S.-based Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) explained in a statement announcing the new analysis.
The EIP report—titledGreenhouse Gases from Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Production (pdf)—details recent and potential future emissions from U.S. petroleum and natural gas systems, chemical manufacturing, and oil refineries based on data reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, fossil fuel production projections from the Department of Energy, and permits that companies are seeking or have acquired.
"Facilities in these sectors reported emitting 764 million tons of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide equivalent tons) in 2018, an eight percent increase since 2016," the report says. "Expected growth in oil and gas production and large new and expanded oil, gas, and chemical plants have the potential to add up to 227 million additional tons of greenhouse gases by 2025."
"That could bring total emissions to nearly one billion tons, equivalent to the greenhouse gas output from more than 218 large coal-fired power plants operating around the clock at full capacity," the report continues, noting that the estimates "likely understate emissions growth from the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors."
Aided by both the Obama and Trump administrations, the expansion of the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries in the United States continues despite repeated and increasingly urgent warnings from experts that the U.S. fracking boom is threathening ecosystems and making people sick.
Scientists have called for all countries—but particularly the world's wealthiest—to rapidly phase out fossil fuels in favor of 100% renewable energy to prevent the worst impacts of the global climate emergency.
"The U.S. is already struggling to meet climate commitments and transition to a low-carbon future," Courtney Bernhardt, research director at the EIP, said in the group's statement. "This analysis shows that we're heading in the wrong direction and really need to slow emissions growth from the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries."
The report concludes that "the industries responsible for driving fossil fuel extraction and production need to be held more fully accountable for their actions and the consequences of those actions." Its key recommendations are to strengthen permits, improve monitoring and reporting, and increase funding to state environmental agencies.
"Oil and gas production and petrochemical manufacturing are responsible for most of the growth in greenhouse gas emissions today," EIP executive director Eric Schaeffer said Wednesday. "Unfortunately, the permits being issued by states and EPA for the largest projects do not include cost-effective methods for controlling greenhouse gas pollution, even though this is required by the federal Clean Air Act. Unless you think global warming is a hoax, that needs to change."
New Orleans-based Mark Schleifstein reported for The Times-Picayune Wednesday that EIP found the contentious $9.4 billion Formosa complex proposed for St. James Parish would have the highest potential yearly greenhouse gas emissions (13.6 million tons) among all the future and petrochemical and plastics projects included in the analysis.
As Common Dreams reported last month, Louisiana residents and environmental justice groups are fighting against construction of the plant in the region nationally known as "Cancer Alley" because of the area's significant industrial development and the related health impacts on local communities.
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Greg Langley told The Guardian Tuesday that the state has issued 16 key air quality permits for the project that that essentially clears the way for Formosa to begin construction on the new facility.
In a statement responding to the development Tuesday, Sharon Lavigne, president of the campaign group Rise St. James, vowed to maintain local resistance to the project. "We are fighting to protect our homes and our families from this monster, Formosa," she said. "We are not going to stop because of this bad decision by the state to grant air permits."
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