I can hear the Green grow


Double tongue speaking nations that debate coal use and pollution, export the former black gold to feed China’s need.

by Frank van Empel

In 1965 the Netherlands still had 40.000 workers in the coal mines of the province of Limburg. A lot of them came from Italy, Spain and Portugal. In the years following, until 1973, all Dutch coal mines successively were closed. The ‘guest workers’ from the South went back to their spaghetti and paella cooking mothers and sisters. However, if the Dutch follow the international trend in energy, the mines will be reopened soon. Not for our own use, but for the Chinese. The containers that brought cheap labour made consumer goods to Rotterdam, return to China filled with used paper now, but will switch to coal then. As if the World goes the other way around.

Water flows to the lowest point and a same kind of story can be told of coal, and anything else that obeys the basic laws of economics. Until five years ago coal was cheap. The Chinese State had to choose. Should it run its plan economy on expensive oil and higher prices for ‘made in China’ toys, electronics, cars and the more, or take the pollution, climate warming emissions road? That crab wasn’t hard to cut. And the same is true for the environment worried lip service paying businessmen in some of the world’s more environmentally progressive nations.

At ports in Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Colombia and South Africa ships are lining up to load coal for furnaces in China, the New York Times reported on November the 21st. The US ship coal to China via Canada. Businessmen ask for more, like they always do. More loading ports and more mines, to earn more money and grow faster at the cost of clean air, miner’s lungs and the quality of life for low wage miners and their families.

China keeps on pushing anyway. In the fastest growing economy of the world the environment is a second stage play, only meant for goats haired socks social workers from the West who cannot understand it anyway. If hardboiled businessmen from the West don’t want to earn dirty money, the African dictators will go for the rebound.

As a result China’s economy already burns half of the 6 billion tons of coal used globally each year. Prices of coal doubled during the last five years. Emissions of CO2 in China went up 8% in the year 2009. On average it was down 1,3% on a global scale because of the financial crisis. Too little for a shrinking (-4%) global economy.

This year and next year CO2-emissions will be gearing up to record levels. Al Gore cum suïs get more wind in their sails and we all can hear the Green grow. More political tensions are ahead.

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