A call for a rational discussion of the issue PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 October 2011 15:23

By REMEDIOS F. MARMOLEÑO

“The worst prison would be a closed heart.” This line of Pope John Paul II is worth reflecting on, particularly now when there is so much suffering and pain in our world, suffering caused by nature and pain caused by man to other men,  and we are all called to connect with our fellow human beings

Dare I  suggest that the second worst prison is a closed mind? I am particularly led to think like this because of my attendance at the public consultation for the proposed coal-fired plant of  SRPI.

No one argues against the claim that we need to generate more power to meet the electricity requirements of households and businesses and industry. The big argument is how this electricity will be generated. In an ideal world, and we certainly don’t live in one, electricity generation should meet the following conditions:  the power source should be renewable and  cheap; the process should pose little threat to people and the environment; generating the electricity should not create a competition for availability of other essential needs of the community.

There are several ways to generate electricity and we in Mindanao have over the years been using electricity generated by hydropower and by plants relying on burning bunker fuel. Between the two the use of hydropower is so much better:  it is cheap, it is clean. The big negative  mark against hydropower is this:  the reality of climate change has made it susceptible to the vagaries of rainfall. A long dry spell, as in the El Niño phenomenon, can drastically reduce the capacity of a hydropower plant to generate electricity.  We then have to consider alternative ways to generate electricity.

Science and technology have provided other alternatives, but these alternatives present inherent limitations when specific  variables are considered. After the Fukushima incident nuclear plants are way down in the list for consideration as an alternative. Wind mills as these have been put up in Holland? We don’t have enough wind in this part of the country to make this a realistic  alternative. What about solar-powered plants?  We do have enough sunshine in our city but this technology is far too expensive at present  for it to become a feasible alternative. A plant that would harness ocean currents?  The technology of this still needs some years for development.  A coal-fired plant?  Ah, that is the big question.

I am not endorsing the SRPI proposal, per se. But this is a case which calls on us to have open minds. While everyone agrees that we need a new generating facility, there are those who cannot, or will not, argue for the feasible alternative to a coal-fired plant even as they vehemently take a stand against it.

I think we should premise our stand against the proposed coal-fired plant on something rational:  Is it the technology of a coal-fired plant that we are against?... What are the objections to this technology?  Is it the SRPI proposal itself? If it is the SRPI proposal, what about it do we not accept? If we discuss the matter more rationally, then we may be closer to a closure on the discussion, whether it goes one way or the other.