George is quite right here

Coal kills vastly more people each year than nuclear ever has or ever will.

Three hundred micrograms of fine particulates per cubic metre of air is classed as severe pollution, the point at which children and elderly people should not leave their homes. As Greenpeace points out, in Shanghai a fortnight ago and in Harbin in October concentrations of particulates exceeded 500 micrograms. By far the greatest source of these particles is coal burning.

I don’t doubt it. But one question does interest me. Are the Chinese using electrostatic filters on the chimneys, as western plants must do, or not?

You’re picturing filthy plants in Poland and Romania, aren’t you? But among the most polluting power stations in Europe, Longannet in Scotland is ranked 11th; and Drax, in England, is ranked seventh.

Are we actually talking about the same levels of pollution there? Are both post filtering of the fly ash, or one before and one after?

21 comments on “George is quite right here

  1. Are we actually talking about the same levels of pollution there? Are both post filtering of the fly ash, or one before and one after?

    That he is relying on nonsense goes without saying. This is George after all. Despite all the progress he has made, he is still a gullible fool.

    By the look of it, he is relying on the WWF’s Dirty Thirty list. Which does not measure pollution. It measures carbon intensity. There is, after all, no way that Drax is higher up the list than Logannet. In fact it looks to me like he took an older report that said Drax was 27th and misplaced a 2.

  2. I have actually read the report. Well, skimmed it anyway.

    And I did George a disfavour. It is a piece of crap of course. But not quite so bad as I thought. It is measuring absolute levels of emissions. Drax is very large. Therefore even though Drax is mildly clean per ton, it does go through a lot of tons.

    Their insanity can be measured by their policy recommendations. Which are, basically, to close down the coal industry. Which I am all in favour of, but they do little to suggest an alternative. Of course we know what they mean. They look the usual State-funded Watermelons. The sort of people that Bishop Hill was talking about recently:

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2013/12/13/a-sudden-realisation.html

  3. Just when you fear George is approaching a lucidity that would be deleterious to his Guardian career he pulls back from the precipice:

    “Coal, on which industrialism was built – and which over the past 200 years has come to seem central to our identity – is an industry much bigger and nastier and more embedded than the one we have chosen to fear. I don’t believe our choice is accidental.”

    Quite, but it’s probably not because the evil, cigar-chomping, top-hatted coal barons have bewitched us with their carboniferous conspiring, for we are stupidly running down our coal-fired energy infrastructure just as we haven’t built any new nuclear since Rick Astley was in the charts.

    The real reason the eco-wibble neo-Luddite tendency hates and fears atomic energy is because it knocks the legs out from under their demands that we institute international socialism and deliberately impoverish the car-owning, cheap-flights-using hoi polloi under the pretext of preventing Birmingham from becoming an island.

    They don’t want the plebs to own 60 inch plasma tellies and drive Chelsea tractors. They’d much rather we spent the dark winter nights in our miserable eco-hovels mending our own socks and rummaging through our own trash as penance for imposing ourselves on Gaia.

    For that reason, the greenies only support forms of electricity generation that don’t actually work. Any technology that is effective at cheap mass power generation – be it nuclear, coal, shale, or even hydro – is the enemy. If solar ever becomes cost-effective, they’ll suddenly start talking about how terrible it is that solar panels use nasty toxic chemicals and whatnot.

    It’s not about climate change, it’s about destroying Western civilisation.

  4. SMFS – Thanks for posting that Bishop Hill link. It sums up what I’ve been saying:

    “The posters that dotted the lecture theatre lobby area covered topics as diverse as vegan diets to an eventual return to low technology hunter-gatherer societies”

    The hard ideological core of the eco-freak movement assumes that they can transform the world into one big lentil-eating hippy commune, albeit a surprisingly authoritarian one where polluters and climate deniers are killed. Much like Charlie Manson’s hippy commune then.

  5. Coal, worldwide, kills about 150,000 a year, mostly through black lung & emphesemia, nuclear last killed 2 people in a Japanese accident over a decade ago (not Fukushima – nobody died or was even injured by it).

    Incidentally coal power stations give off far more radioactivity, mainly radon, than nuclear ones.

    That means no remotely honest politician has ever opposed nuclear on safety grounds. Of course such are very rare.

  6. Not surprising that Drax is high up the (absolute) European pollution list – its electricity output is the highest of any power station in western Europe.

    Isn’t the more useful figure the pollution per megawatt?

  7. “Are we actually talking about the same levels of pollution there?”

    We’re not even talking about the same type of pollution. Drax is a pretty clean power station. It emits lots of CO2, of course, because it’s the largest power station in Europe.

  8. Without reading the report, or even the article, I have one simple question – is the level of fine particulate pollution in the vicinity of Longanette or Drax anywhere near 300-500 micrograms per cubic metre? If not (and I would expect not), there’s the end of that argument. Comparing apples and oranges just doesn’t work.

    In words of one syllable – not as bad as you were told George.

  9. This something I have some peripheral involvement with when it comes to tunnel exhaust stacks. We’re not even producing the pollution there, just collecting it from vehicles, but it’s concentrated so you have make sure it gets spread out before falling to ground. Shoot it up into the sky, mostly the local pollution goes down due to a freer flow of traffic anyway, Fair enough, yay engineers and all.

    But I’ve seen a report that showed that over winter, 97% of fine particulates in Melbourne came from domestic wood fires. You know, from all the trendies sipping their chardonnay in front of the romantic crackling fire…

  10. Ltw
    Well said. Here I can’t get wood for the stove for love or money. It’s because the frogs have got it into their heads that burning wood is green. So lots of little frog hypocrites have installed stoves (with a tax break) and congratulate themselves that they aren’t burning fossil fuels.
    But they are polluting just the same.

  11. Steve, December 17, 2013 at 11:13 & 11:27 am

    Agreed. It’s scarcely possible to exaggerate the viciousness of the misanthropy that underlies environmentalism in almost all its forms.

    I get really fed up with people describing greenshirts as “well-meaning”: well-meaning my arse! Ask them what they think the population of this country, or the Earth, should be: then you’ll know.

  12. Ltw – “But I’ve seen a report that showed that over winter, 97% of fine particulates in Melbourne came from domestic wood fires. You know, from all the trendies sipping their chardonnay in front of the romantic crackling fire…”

    George does not mention it, but one of the main causes of the Chinese smog has been charcoal production – especially around Beijing – and farmers burning off their fields in preparation for the winter. It is not the only cause of course, but it is a major cause.

    DocBud – “I don’t think the coal industry will stop providing the world with cheap, reliable energy to drive economic growth anytime soon:”

    I know, but a boy can dream ….

    In fairness, China is going the whole hog on nuclear too. I just don’t think there is any vendor that could provide China with enough new plant. Virtually all of them are building in China as we speak – the Americans, the French, the Canadians, even the Russians.

  13. It’s generally a pretty safe assumption that whether a Mongbiot column is mendacious or simply misinformed, his policy prescriptions will be grubbily fascist.

  14. If Monbiot actually believes what he writes, surely he must be a promoter of fracking in the UK.

    After all, natural gas could displace coal as a power source much more quickly than nuclear could.

    Still, logic has never been a Green strength, I suppose.

  15. Hamish – Absolutely. The idea that greenies are fundamentally well meaning is a dangerously wrongheaded assumption. As you point out, theirs is a profoundly retrograde and misanthropic ideology.

    Note that the presumption of good intent is rarely reciprocated. Critics of eco-craziness tend to behave as if they believe the eco-loons are simply misguided in pursuing their righteous instincts.

    Greenies tend to behave as if anybody not on their side is stupid, wicked and/or evil. Terms like “denier” and “climate criminal” and conspiracy theories about Big Oil and the Koch Brothers are incredibly revealing of the greenie mindset.

    When you concede the moral high ground to religious fanatics you can’t expect to win.

  16. So why, SMFS, do you dream of the demise of an industry that employs millions of good, honest, hard-working people around the world and provides the cheap energy that is lifting many more out of poverty?

  17. DocBud – “So why, SMFS, do you dream of the demise of an industry that employs millions of good, honest, hard-working people around the world and provides the cheap energy that is lifting many more out of poverty?”

    Because it is lethal – it is an industry that kills its workers. Slowly and painfully in many cases. Quickly and presumably not so painfully in others. It is polluting. It creates eye sores across the countryside. It empowers Unions in the West that struck during WW2 and aligned themselves with the Soviet Union.

    Is there anything good to be said about coal at all? Even jobs are, as TW keeps telling us, a cost, not a benefit.

    I look forward to the day when power, probably nuclear, is close to too cheap to metre and the poor of the world have all the power they could possibly want. But I hope coal provides none of it.

  18. SMFS,

    Here in Australia coal mining does not regularly kill its employees rapidly or slowly, certainly not at a rate comparable to industries such as construction or farming. Neither does it pollute relative to any other human activity. Most modern coal mines are no more visually unappealing than any other industrial facility, including nuclear power stations or wind farms.

    Yes, coal mining unions tend to be bastards, but no more than other unions such as car unions, rail unions or dockers.

    “Is there anything good to be said about coal at all?”

    Well, it has made me a multi-millionaire. Which is nice.

  19. DocBud – “Here in Australia coal mining does not regularly kill its employees rapidly or slowly, certainly not at a rate comparable to industries such as construction or farming.”

    I am sure that is true. Open Cut mines are so much nicer than traditional pits. Although Australia still has some of those doesn’t it? I was a bit surprised to see a couple of miners die in a pit in New Zealand a while back.

    “Neither does it pollute relative to any other human activity.”

    In Australia it is hard to tell because the country is so large and the human foot print relatively small. And because Western countries remove a lot of the crap before it goes up the chimney. But you cannot claim that. You really cannot. It spews all sorts of crap all over the landscape. Including uranium. Even open cut mines have problems with ground water.

    “Most modern coal mines are no more visually unappealing than any other industrial facility, including nuclear power stations or wind farms.”

    I actually quite like open cut mines if they are big enough. That makes me a minority I am sure. Still. When coal is stored in huge piles, they are not remotely aesthetically appealling. Nor are the trains that carry the coal.

    “Yes, coal mining unions tend to be bastards, but no more than other unions such as car unions, rail unions or dockers.”

    That is no excuse. If only we could be rid of the lot.

    “Well, it has made me a multi-millionaire. Which is nice.”

    Oh. My. God. You’re Clive Palmer!! OK, I full admit that is nice. It does have at least one redeeming feature.

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