Coal, politics and protest | By Prof Shazia A Cheema


Coal, politics and protest

PAKISTAN has huge coal deposits and the Thar coalfield is located in the Thar Desert. Tharparkar District of Sindh is the 16th-largest coal reserve in the world that was discovered in 1991.

We did not work on this opportunity because international environmental agencies were discouraging everybody from using coal, claiming that coal usage for energy production is harmful and pollutes global air quality immensely.

This dictation always discourages developing countries like Pakistan to use coal to avoid western political pressure.

Therefore, Pakistan did not dare to work on this nature-gifted source of energy and utilized expensive and imported oil and gas sources for producing thermal energy.

In 2008, Pakistan first time decided to utilize the benefit of the Thar coalfield and since then we are waiting for the maximum production of our thermal electricity through coal.

The Federal Minister for Energy KhuramDastigir Khan while addressing at the ceremony of presenting the “Report on Overview of Pakistan’s Power Sector and its Future Outlook” rightfully said that coal was one of the biggest energy sources Pakistan had to use to mitigate the energy crisis in future.

The Report has been prepared with collective efforts and support of Pakistan-China Institute (PCI), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG), All Pakistan Chinese Enterprises’ Association (APCEA) and Independent Power Sector Experts.

Attending this event, I was thinking that this is the right time for Pakistan to use the maximum potential of coal as an energy source because the entire western world has no political and moral justification to stop any country to use coal due to the political situation faced by Europe.

Coal among all fossil fuel sources produces maximum environmental pollution and western countries since ages are teaching developing countries to reduce the usage of coal to zero level.

Europe is emphasizing automobile companies to stop production of fossil fuel-using cars and produce Green Cars powered by electricity.

Just imagine European countries that were not ready to tolerate carbon in the air from airplanes and cars are now using maximum coal for producing energy because “new political realities” are compelling to compromise on many things including European environmental standards.

Rules are those that suit rulers and the Europeans are global rulers. European media is reporting that coal prices have soared to a record level due to increasing consumption to fill in gaps left by the reduced supply of gas from under-sanctioned Russia.

Everybody fears that European energy prices will keep surging so the focus is also shifting to how the region will withstand winter demand shocks.

Russia is habitual of facing sanctions for ages and the experience of Russia to rebound impact of sanctions works again because China bridges the Russian economy by buying maximum gas and fuel energy.

Russia has sustained its economy and inflation rate but has thrown Europe into marshland. Businesses and households are facing the worst inflation in decades in Europe while governments are stepping back from their clean-energy goals just to ensure that there is enough fuel to make it through the coming winter.

In a recent Bloomberg Television report, experts indicated that in European economies, particularly in Eastern Europe where industries are rationing gas and switching to alternatives but the burden of high prices is “huge,” and cannot be ignored by consumers.

On September 3 huge protest at Wenceslas Square in the city centre, of Prague was attended by over 70,000 protestors who were demonstrating against the price hike, calling on the government to bring energy prices under control while voicing their opposition to the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

They were of the view that the European nations should be neutral militarily in Ukraine-Russia War and should maintain gas imports from Russia.

Everyone in European cities and this May when I was on my summer break from Prague to Copenhagen, I could feel everybody was in the grip of the soaring economy and constant price hikes.

European energy crisis and maximum use of coal as an alternative source in Europe teach us that every country is free to decide what suits it to survive and politics changes everything and there are no certain rules or norms for anybody on this earth.

This is high time that Pakistan must take maximum advantage of using everything from coal to nuclear energy for its economic demands.

This is high time to dismantle the international “oil and gas gang” that teaches developing countries not to use coal and nuclear energy for domestic consumption and traps countries like Pakistan in the expensive sales of oil and gas for producing energy, particularly—electricity.

—The writer is a Prague-based author, columnist and foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media.


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