Air pollution perceptions and their impacts on the coal industry

04 Aug 2016

Perceptions of disaster caused by burning fossil fuels have reached such a pitch that they seriously threaten the very future of the industry. Coal is a dirty word. A leader in Business Day (January 19 2009) claimed ?There is no disputing that renewable and nonpolluting energy sources are preferable to the country?the true cost of so-called cheap coal-fired power stations is neither reflected nor accounted for by Eskom?the true and immediate but unacknowledged cost of continued coal mining is apparent in the catastrophic level of acidification from mining runoff of all significant natural water resources in the country?and their waters have been rendered unfit for human consumption. Air quality is in a similar state with?increases in pulmonary disease causing workforce absenteeism and compromised childhood development, among many other health problems recorded in areas polluted by coal mining.? The upshot is that our latest coal-fired power station, Kusile, is being required to use flue gas desulphurization. The costs are considerable, and the benefits minimal. Meanwhile, exports are being threatened by EU directives and an assumption that South African coal gives off excessive quantities of SOx and NOx when burned. The industry needs to arm itself with clear responses to these and similar misconceptions, and to communicate those responses loudly and clearly, if it is to survive.