Turkey’s energy policy is expensive and lethal (2)

In my previous column, I wondered why in this election campaign no party attacks the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) about its current and planned energy policy based on the use of fossil fuels, especially coal. There are several good reasons to do so but two stand out.
One is, as I explained before, the enormous financial costs of using so much coal, oil and gas. Between 2001 and 2011, the Turkish state spent almost TL 7 billion on direct consumer and producer subsidies. That is a lot of money that could have been used to invest in other less-polluting and renewable sources of energy such as wind and sun.

Today, I will focus on the second good reason to stop the current energy policy: The devastating impact on the health of millions of Turkish citizens and the related costs. Last week, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), a leading European NGO in this field, presented a report titled and”The Unpaid Health Bill: How coal power plants in Turkey make us sick.and” The findings of this report should set off alarm bells with all parties running for Parliament. The main conclusion: andquotIt estimates that air pollution from the 19 coal-fired power plants that were in operation in 2012 caused health costs of up to 3.6 billion [euros] a year.and” We are talking here about the money, a staggering TL 10 billion annually, that needs to be spent to deal with premature deaths, chronic lung diseases and heart conditions, all caused by the use of coal.
That is today. But it gets much worse if the plans of the government are implemented unchanged: A quadrupling of coal power capacity by building 80 new coal power plants all over the country. Can you imagine the skyrocketing health costs for current and future generations? The average lifespan of a coal power plant is at least 40 years. If all these new plants were built, millions of tons of hazardous air pollution, massive health damage and greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change would be locked in for decades. That is why HEAL calls on the Turkish authorities to end all direct and indirect subsidies and tax exemptions for hard coal and lignite mining as well as coal power generation. A moratorium on the construction of new power plants should be introduced. This dramatic call is fully in line with concerns raised earlier by five Turkish medical organizations, led by the Turkish Doctors Union (TTB). In October 2014, they stated their worries about coal power plants, highlighting that these plants have a significant impact on the health of the Turkish population. In the preface to the HEAL report, Dr. Bayazit ilhan, the president of the central council of the TTB, summarized the views of Turkeyand’s medical practitioners as follows: andquotScientific studies clearly show that, due to their polluting effects, coal-fired plants cause disorders, ill-health and even premature death, including among plant workers and people living in neighbouring areasandquot.
What more do Turkish politicians need to reconsider Turkeyand’s deadly reliance on coal? We know the answer: Turkey canand’t afford to shift away from coal like countries such as Germany or the United Kingdom are doing because coal is cheaper than alternatives like wind and solar energy. The above-mentioned amounts present indisputable proof that when you calculate all the costs related to its massive use — direct subsidies and health costs — coal is not the cheap source of energy it is supposed to be.
Besides, you do not need to be a rich country to come to the conclusion that coal is simply too expensive and harmful. At the moment, China generates most of its electricity by burning fossil fuels, mainly coal. That makes the country the number one polluter in the world. But the Chinese have realized it canand’t go on like this and have therefore started greening their power generation. In the last two years, China has added more generating capacity from non-fossil fuel sources (water, wind and solar) than from fossil-fuel sources. The country is investing massively in green sources of electric power because it realizes a future based on coal is highly undesirable.
Come on, Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) and Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) show the Turkish people you have read the sign of the times better than the AKP has and come up with green alternatives that prevent a black future for Turkey.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman