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EDITORIAL - Power plants and bananas

() - March 22, 2011 - 12:00am

A court in Cebu has ordered all coal-fired power plants in the island to stop dumping coal ash, the normal byproduct of these plants, outside their own premises. Coal ash, the court said, is harmful to health.

There is no argument that coal ash is harmful to health. But just as eating a banana is harmful to health if you shove it whole down your throat, there is also a way to avoid the harm by taking the banana in manageable bites and chewing it well before swallowing.

The same with coal ash. It can be disposed of properly and safely, even outside the premises of power plants, provided tested methods of disposal are followed. This is what should have been considered, not just the coal ash in itself. Or else no one will eat bananas.

This is not meant to belittle the dangers posed by coal ash. But the point is, while the dangers are real, there are means to either minimize or eliminate them. And these means should be utilized. For the dangers on the flip side of the coin are even more real and immediate.

An uncompromising stand against the ash generated by coal-fired power plants, including those that already use clean coal technology, can force these plants to shut down. And if these plants shut down, so will much of modern life as we now know it.

For the hard reality is that there is almost no other alternative to coal-fired power plants in Cebu. These are what we mostly have. And even if alternatives can be found, they are not like bananas that can be peeled in five seconds. It takes years to set up any power plant.

Can anyone propose what people should do in the meantime that there are no power plants? How we wish it could be as simple as breathing in the resulting fresh and unpolluted air. But all of us know that life has grown far more complicated than that.

We are all for clean air and good health. But we also cannot just simply do away with power plants. Happily for most dilemmas, life is full of surprising compromises. All we have to do is look for them. One caveat though. We won’t find any if we are adamant and uncompromising.

ASH CEBU COAL DANGERS EVEN FIRED HARMFUL HEALTH PLANTS POWER
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