Tagged: Coal

Heartless NUMSA official claims cyclone which wiped out Beira is a lie

ON NATIONAL television, NUMSA official Phakamile Jola claimed that the cyclone which destroyed “90 percent” of Beira, a city of about a half-million people ‘was a lie’. Apparently, the resulting loss of power from the massive Cahora Bassa hydroelectric scheme which powers Gauteng, is merely a ruse by our government to promote privatization of Eskom.

Beira is Mozambique’s fourth largest and faces the Indian Ocean, while the inland Cahora Bassa scheme in Tete province was unfortunately in the path of the storm which also wreaked havoc in Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The power lines came down over the weekend, causing massive power outages in South Africa.

The shameful failure to get to grips with climate change and baseload energy dynamics comes at the expense not only of Mocambicans, but  the poor and unemployed of South Africa.

In an editorial, Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper said that climate change was responsible for the extreme weather, and that the country must brace itself for more. “Tropical Cyclone Idai brings vital lessons that climate change is now with us’.

Some 850 000 people are affected.

NUMSA continue in their legal challenge on behalf of well-heeled coal truckers in the country seemingly oblivious to the suffering caused by climate change, the result of emissions from mammoth coal-fired power-plants such as Medupe and Kusile.

While privatization may not be the only solution to Eskom’s woes, IPPs are certainly part of the necessary corrective to the state monopoly and its over-reliance on state-sponsored debt to drive expension.

 

Socialist complexity at heart of Eskom’s problems.

WHEN Medupi and Kusile were announced by our government in 2004 and 2007 respectively, the two coal-fired mega-projects were both seen as emblematic of South Africa’s democratic progress —  key to the ruling alliance and its plans for the future.

The ruling labour-left coalition was at the height of its power. With its roots in the victorious anti-apartheid struggle, it had made no secret of its desire for a ‘mixed economic model’, in which a socialist command economy would prevail alongside the capitalist economy, and where the energy sector, would imitate policies from the days of the former Soviet Union. What could possibly go wrong?

According to Pretoria technocrats, a new era of cheap coal would herald in cheap and plentiful electricity with which to ‘build the nation’. Both consumers and workers would benefit. The latter from long-lived and extended public works programmes centred around coal, which in turn would drive salaries and feed households which had experienced some of the worst ravages of apartheid ‘separate development.”(1)

Thus it was that these two projects ballooned into costly engineering exercises, as complexity driven by the technocrats, bureaucrats and party officials, armed with Marxist texts and presidential directives, ruled the day. That Marxists tend to overtheorise economic problems, relying upon ideas such as ‘dialectical materialism’ and the ‘labour theory of value’ to arrive at their conclusions, in effect the triumph of ‘ideology over pragmatism’, has already been remarked upon.

What has not been said in the mainstream media is the manner in which unions such as COSATU, emboldened by socialist think-tanks such as the AIDC whose research is anything but lopsided (2), and with a culture of intolerance for differences in opinion, quixotically feed unemployment, climate change and the national debt. While the rest of the world is moving away from coal, South Africa’s coal ambitions have instead risen and include plans for at least several new coal plants such as Thabametsi, each one able to take our country into poll position as one of the top GHG emitters in the world.

Eskom’s coal-fired power plants persistently and significantly violates the air pollution limits in its licences.

“The main cause of its troubles” say Adjunct Professor Rod Crompton, is Eskom’s decision “to build two of the biggest coal fired generating plants in the world, (Medupi and Kusile). These plants are running way behind schedule, they’re over budget and the bits that are complete don’t work properly. They are probably the single largest disaster in South Africa’s economic history.”

Medupi is literally drowning in ash. The result of socialist bureaucrats implementing design changes via committee without sufficient input from scientists and engineers, whom they invariably ignore. This lack of concern for evidence-based research and scientific methodology in favour of ‘political education’ is not a new one, witness the failed Afro 4000 train debacle .

An editorial published by Engineering Weekly for example, debunks concerns from COSATU and others, surrounding loss of jobs due to renewables, and yet the union continues to demand a state-owned power utility on steroids, with little concern for loss of jobs in the broader economy and the tragic impact upon the livelihoods of those affected by outages and inefficiency.

“There is considerable support in South Africa” says Tobias Bishof-Niemz  for the notion that a transition in the electricity system from coal to renewable energy will trigger a jobs bloodbath at both Eskom and the Mpumalanga coal mines. A detailed analysis of the job numbers, however, suggests quite the opposite. In fact, it points to there being at least 30% more jobs in a fleet comprising solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind farms when compared with an energy-equivalent coal fleet”

Meanwhile the brazen union federation staged a protest march this week, in response to the President’s plan to unbundle Eskom, in effect calling for Eskom and its mounting debt, to be supersized. Unbundling alone may not be enough to offset the crisis. Creating completely separate, independent and regional power utilities able to compete with each other would have a better chance of survival.

NOTE:

(1) See Rudzani Mudogwa’s recently published defense of coal which relies heavily on  statements made by Gwede Mantashe.

(2) An article doing the rounds in the local press  purporting to be by “Dr Sweeney, an AIDC visiting researcher, with the City University of New York’s ‘School of Labor and Urban Studies’,” claims splitting up Eskom ‘will result in privatization’. If one follows the logic of the argument presented, it is the West (including NY City) that is in the grip of rolling blackouts and massive debt run-up by Energy Companies since they were unbundled from the State. No citations, case examples nor evidence is provided by the ‘researcher’.

Medupi alone is a R145bn disaster

Liberalism’s ideologues and their coalfaced discontents 

Old King Coal be damned

icebox.jpgWHEN the electric icebox was invented, thousands of ice haulers went out of business.  At the turn of the 20th century, nearly every family, grocer, and barkeeper in South Africa had an icebox. But ironically, South Africa’s dependence on ice created the very technology that would lead to the decline of the ice empire — electric freezers and refrigerators.

During the early 1900s, these appliances became more reliable, and by 1940, millions of units had been sold. With freezers allowing people to make ice at home, there was little need to haul massive quantities across the country.

We can’t stop progress and if we do, we risk losing far more than jobs, our Earth and our human habitat is at risk. Because of altered circumstances, Eskom has decided to shut down five coal power stations — Hendrina‚ Kriel‚ Komati‚ Grootvlei and Camden. The termination of coal truckers contracts has lead to a furore, with Cosatu labelling it a “hostile act”.

We can’t turn back the clock. This is not simply about Independent Power Producers (IPPs), as 250 medical professionals and medical organisations stated in the Durban Declaration, climate change is a medical emergency. According to the Lancet, climate change is the greatest global health threat of the 21stcentury.

Each year has seen an increase in global ambient temperatures caused by the release of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) associated with carbon and fossil fuel such as coal, with the resulting melting of permafrost and the polar icecaps, retreat of glaciers, thermal expansion of the ocean and most indicators are off the charts. Africa will suffer most from increasing temperatures. Workers will be most affected by associated loss in productivity.

We can’t afford to live under domes with an altered climate, neither can we afford to miss out on the renewables revolution. Far from being a scourge of privatisation, it is one of our country’s few success stories, continuing to attract investment, continuing to produce jobs and the roll-out of renewable energy is very impressive. It represents a paradigm shift, we dare not ignore.

A way must therefore be found to accommodate the major shift in energy priorities and the sudden dislocation of an entire industry. Truckers can truck goods in other markets, we must assist them, but we cannot step back from the icebox analogy and the melting point — we really no longer need a coal trucking route, nor a coal industry and its cost in terms of human life.

One can only suggest Eskom needs to be more strategic in its approach and truckers need to given the resources to regain control over their lives. Government must assist in skills retraining and investing in adult education that will help families deal with the crisis. It must not be mislead by the unscientific opinions and haranguing of union bosses.

SEE: Earthlife Africa wins court challenge

Extract Published in Cape Argus, Letters 9 March 2017