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Africa’s hard black gold

Richard Uku, The Guardian
Few infrastructure services in the developed world are taken for granted as much as electric power. To consumers in industrialised countries, uninterrupted power supply is a given. Not so in sub-Saharan Africa, which experiences some of the world’s greatest power deficits, and where only two in 10 people have access to electricity.

According to a recent report from the International Monetary Fund Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa, in 2007 alone, nearly two-thirds of the countries in the region experienced an acute energy crisis marked by frequent and extended electricity cuts.

There is no shortage of hydropower plants for electricity generation in Africa. However, many of them are unable to keep up with rapid population growth and attendant increases in demand. Furthermore, they are prone to frequent drought, which reduces their output significantly, leaving many as little more than decorative infrastructure landmarks. Increasingly, burgeoning populations in countries like Nigeria and Ghana imply a greater extraction of water resources needed for power generation. Rapid expansion of agricultural activity is requiring more and more water all across the continent.

Other resources like fuel oil, diesel, light crude, solar, and gas are also available as means of electricity generation, but their costs are all quite prohibitive.

These factors make a good argument for coal as a cheap alternative source of Africa’s power…
Richard Uku is a senior executive of the Africa Finance Corporation.
(22 September 2008)

Labour conference: John Hutton criticised for comments on coal fired power stations

Paul Eccleston, The Daily Telegraph
Environmental protection groups rounded on Business Secretary John Hutton after he said the UK needed new coal-fired and nuclear power stations.

Mr Hutton dismissed criticism that they would put climate change targets out of reach and said they were necessary to keep the nation’s lights on and to guarantee energy security.

Environment groups have criticsed John Hutton for his comments on coal-fired power stations
“No coal plus no nuclear equals no lights. No power. No future,” he told the Labour Party conference in Manchester.

He said coal would be critically important and would help reduce dependence on imported gas…

But environmental groups were united in condemning the Government’s plans.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “John Hutton somehow manages to sound like a cross between Arthur Scargill and Margaret Thatcher circa 1985.

“New coal-fired power stations can’t even be an option because of their colossal contribution to climate change, that’s why the Environment Agency, the Royal Society and Nasa scientists want to see unabated coal stations phased out…
(22 September 2008)

Obama declares support for ‘clean’ coal

Elana Schor, The Guardian
Barack Obama’s campaign yesterday rushed to proclaim his support for “clean coal” technology after remarks by running mate Joe Biden cast doubts on Democratic friendliness to the coal industry.

In a videotaped exchange with an environmental campaigner in Ohio, Biden allowed Republicans to change the subject from the financial gloom that has put John McCain on the defensive this week.

Asked why he and Obama backed the expensive prospect of capturing and storing carbon
dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants, Biden told the campaigner: “We’re not supporting clean coal … No coal plants here in America.”

Biden’s comments contradict Obama’s public promotion of “clean coal” as well as a more controversial scheme to turn coal into liquid fuel.

Environmentalists have chided Obama for supporting those ideas, but Biden’s spontaneous remark could do the Democrats greater damage with voters in coal-producing states such as Ohio and Virginia…
(24 September 2008)
Since ‘clean coal’ doesn’t exist it will be interesting to find out what exactly Obama is supporting.-SO