Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Rolling in our own excrement

That's my gut reaction to Mighty River Power's plans to refurbish and convert the Marsden-B plant to burn coal. It's a quick and dirty fix, and while there's no doubt that it will add to our energy security, it is also likely to have significant environmental costs. Worse, it will "Maui" the energy generation market again, by providing a source of artificially cheap electricity which will significantly constrain further construction.

The thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. Coal can be burned relatively cleanly and efficiently using gasification technology. It's still worse than natural gas, but it's a hell of a lot better than using quarter-century old boilers originally designed for oil. Which is of course what Mighty River is planning to do. They've chosen the filthiest possible option so as to externalise their costs, and the local community will pay for it in lung cancer.

This is a project that deserves to fail, and the quicker it does so the better. Unless Mighty River commits to using the cleanest available technology, their consent applications should be fought at every turn.