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Overuse of black rock results to a blacker future

 

By: Margarita Jaice Trinidad

Being formed for a thousand of years underground, coal is carbon-rich black rock that releases energy when being burned. The Philippines ranks 28th in the world for Coal consumption, accounting for about 2.0% of the world’s total consumption of 1,139,471,430 tons, according to the worldometer info website.

Semirara Mining Corporation is known as the country’s largest and main source of coal production in Semirara Island. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the company accounts for 92% of the country’s coal production.

Coal impacts: Climate change

One of the leading contributors to climate change, which is now threatening the existence of all living beings on the earth, is coal-fired power plants. On top of that, at any point of its life cycle, it affects the environment and public health.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), “chemically, coal is mostly carbon, which, when burned, reacts with oxygen in the air to produce carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas. When released into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide works like a blanket, warming the earth above normal limits”.

Consequences of global warming include: drought, rising of the sea level, excessive flooding, extreme weather changes, and loss of species.These are linked to the amount of carbon dioxide we release especially from coal plants.

Possible effects of ending coal production

Asia, home to half the world’s population, today accounts for three-fourths of global coal consumption; The Philippines has a vast potential for coal resources to contribute to the achievement of the country’s energy self-sufficiency program, pending complete exploration and growth

On the 17th of July 2015, Semirara Mining and Power Company, whose mining site collapsed and buried nine workers, provided the victims’ families with all the requisite resources, including financial aid, scholarships, and accommodation.

By shutting down a coal-fired facility, the drop in CO2 emissions is estimated to be about half a million tons per year.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants is related to asthma , cancer, heart and lung disorders, neurological issues, acid rain, global warming, and other significant environmental and public

health impacts. As we already have the technologies that can replace coal, phase out is a relatively cheap and easy option to reduce emissions.

Why coal production is hard to stop

For all the millions of words written about climate change, the dilemma really comes down to this: fuel is geopolitically extremely useful, massively valuable and extremely significant, but combating global warming means, by choice, leaving much of it on the field.

Basically, coal is cheap assuming that its substantial health and environmental costs are not paid for by you.

The use of coal helps many industrial players, including coal firms, power companies, coal shipping railways, and steel, cement and aluminum producers. They may oppose changes in the status quo, and because of their political clout, plus the tax revenue and employment they create, governments may accept them.

Coal is still readily available worldwide, and is relatively easy to transport and store. Coal plants also generate about 30 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

DOE issues ban on new coal plants

“There is a scientific basis to not do coal because it will be a stranded asset financially and economically, and technically the grid can no longer accept coal,’’ said Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, DOE.

Members of the House of Representatives from DOE summoned national government agencies to ensure that they act on climate change and quickly control the energy transition of the country, Philippines.

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda made an enthusiastic appeal to government agencies to do their utmost to implement environmental and climate legislation, and expanded on House Bill No. 2184, her proposed measure to encourage low-carbon development.

DOE has approved twenty-two planned plants; adding them to the energy mix would increase coal’s share to 53 percent by 2030.

In the op-ed, the Energy Department’s Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella stated that the Agency is aware of the energy transition already underway in the country and that it is working towards grid flexibility to enable more variable renewable energies to be made available.

Expansion overseas, Cutting Abroad

It will take a toll on land and communities to extract sufficient coal to meet this increasing appetite. Coal emits the most carbon dioxide per unit of energy of all fossil fuels, so burning it poses another threat to the global environment, which is already alarmingly warming.

According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), electricity prices in the Philippines remain among the highest in Southeast Asia, powered by high reliance on fossil fuel imports, high financing costs and uncompetitive market systems that have stifled innovation- The time for renewables is ripe.

Technology, policies and processes are in place to make a complete transition to renewables. We just need to completely enforce it. We may one day be able to cool our houses without turning up the thermostat on the entire planet.####

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This article was written and prepared by Margarita Jaice Trinidad (Student-Journalist) and Helen Dimafelix (School Paper Adviser) from Pasay City East High School,  Division of  Pasay City as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.