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Morning coffee – black as coal, and as jolting as today’s climate news

It’s good to start the week with a good dose of reality. But sometimes you don’t really know which reality we’re supposed to pay attention to.

Anyone who watched this morning’s ANC show might have heard Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jericho Petilla talk about the power crisis in Mindanao andNwhat appears to be impending power rate hikes in the Meralco franchise area.

The Aquino administration did well to recruit Petilla. The former governor is articulate and affable. The only concern is, like most of the officials who helmed the

DOE, Petilla seems to also be stuck in the tyranny of responding to immediate concerns, which is critical, to the neglect of far more strategic considerations, which is incredibly unfortunate.

Petilla mentioned that an excess of power is quite good, since this will largely drive down prices. This is rather one-dimensional. Anyone who remembers the scandalous take-or-pay contract scandal in our recent history, when Independent Power Producers were provided guaranteed payments whether they generated electricity or not, would know this is not necessarily true. An excess of power, under terribly onerous, even fraudulent, contracts, actually helped generate expensive, crippling power rates that most Filipinos are forced to live with to this day.

On the other hand, Petilla also said the solution to Mindanao’s power woes is largely going to come from coal. The usual arguments were trotted out – coal is , easy to build, is stable.

Australia’s Climate Commission just released a major-major report. If the opposition has their way, the Commission will be abolished. The report runs right smack headfirst into the coal industry, Australia’s main export sector. So expect fireworks. Here’s a story from the Sydney Morning Herald on this, a good sum up.

Its largely disconcerting to hear virtually unchanged views in the DOE regarding coal. It’s possible to actually set aside the humongous environmental, climatic, health, and social evidence that have accumulated over the years showing the destructive role of coal and still remain convinced that coal is a bad idea for the Philippines.

In the US, the coal industry is spiraling downards. Coal production in former American coal powerhouse Central Appalachia, for instance, saw its peak way back in 1990. States in the US are thumbing down new build coal and retiring coal-fired power stations. In fact, the US Energy Information Administration projects that coal output in 2016 to be lower in absolute terms than it was in 1990. Across the developed world, the picture is one of steady, certain decline.

Even major league coal exporter Australia is not spared the decline.

The Climate Commission of Australia recently released a report detailing findings that should make the Philippine government think twice about its plans to expand coal-based power generation in the country. If government would rather not listen to sustainable power advocates, maybe it should reflect on the views of major players in the global financial services sector.

Responding to the findings of the Australian Climate Commission’s report, the executive chair in Melbourne of global financial services provider Macquarie, Simon McKeon, remarked that his industry was very much aware of coal’s shaky standing, that the age of coal is over. “The best of the resource investors are absolutely on to this,” said McKeon, “Anyone who believes they have literally hundreds of millions tonnes of first rate high emitting CO2 coal can no longer blindly believe there will be a strong market for that in 20, 30 years.”

McKeon’s words are pretty clear. Unlike the DOE’s leadership, McKeon understands that financial risks associated with the future of coal are growing rapidly. If we don’t leave coal in the ground and embrace sustainable alternatives, climate change impacts will simply worsen the situation.

Tectonic shifts are taking place with respect to the place of coal in the world’s future. The DOE would be wise to reconsider its preference for coal. There’s a lot of The Australian Climate Commission report found that:

• “Climate change is already having a significant impact on Australians and people around the world, primarily through its influence on extreme events, on human health, agriculture, fresh water supplies, property, infrastructure, and the natural ecosystems upon which our economy and society depends”

• “It is clear that the climate system has already shifted, changing conditions for all weather. While extreme weather events have always occurred naturally, the global climate system is hotter and wetter than it was 50 years ago. This has loaded the dice toward more frequent and forceful extreme weather events. The duration and frequency of heatwaves and extremely hot days have increased across Australia and around the world. The number of heatwaves is projected to increase significantly into the future.” maintain

• The burning of fossil fuels represents the most significant contributor to climate change.

• “From today until 2050 we can emit no more than 600 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to have a good chance of staying within the 2°C limit.

No less than the International Energy Agency has counseled that “Burning all fossil fuel reserves would lead to unprecedented changes in climate so severe that they will challenge the existence of our society as we know it today.”

It’s a simple story.

Short-term risks to the economy related to DOE’s increasing reliance on coal — very bad.

Long-term climate change implications regarding the very viability of the Philippines — far worse.

We need to make the right decisions. Not tomorrow, but today.

by: Red Constantino

This article can also be found in Interaksyon.com.