Friday, 9 September 2016

Gas masks and coal tourism for UK and Thailand?

Khun Sirinya Wattanasukchai makes some very interesting and fun points as always in her “Face Masks On For Coal Tourism” article in last week’s Bangkok Post.

A coal-powered electricity power station is a concern and anachronism for 21st Century Thailand, as detailed at Pak Bhang in Songhkla. And even more so with the world turning against fossil fuels – even here in UK the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, all the coal mines have now closed down.

The dynamic Communities Minister Sajid Javid just this week calling in the huge open cast mine plans at Druridge Bay in beautiful Northumblerland (the Songhkla of UK and the UK's last wilderness of protected parks) for the first-ever UK Climate Change review of energy infrastructure.

Here in East Kent, in my MP role for 2020 we secured the demolition of the Richboro power station. While the Isle of Grain in West Kent saw protests to close down one of Europe’s largest power stations. The largest chimney demolition is underway at the Isle of Grain in Kent - almost 3x the size of Big Ben.

And Kent as part of my campaign saw the removal of Total petrol stations given the USA war crime designation for Total’s actions in pre-AungSan Myanmar. Shell facing similar claims for its actions in the Nigerian Delta.

Coal is dead and so is nuclear with the cancellation of Hinkley power station likely and calls already to speed up the decommissioning of the UK’s 15 elderly nuclear power stations. Last month saw the UK using an excess of solar energy for the first time, and Scotland is being billed by Foreign Mister Alex Salmond as the Laos of an increasingly disunited Kingdom as a tidal and hydro battery.

Occasionally fracking rears its ugly head most recently in Lancashire but to no public support – Kent has been delcated a fracking-free zone and Sussex fracking protests ended that site. While European cities such as Stuttgart and Berlin have all declared they will end their fossil fuel investments in pension funds etc. Unfortunately not yet here in Kent which lumbers on with both tobacco and fossil fuel investments for its public sector pensions.

But if Thailand’s EGAT electricity company management as detailed by Khun Sirinya can keep a straight face and declare that “coal is green”(!) and believe that building on SakommBeach has tourism potential, then they are sadly mistaken.

In UK, the Cornish tin mines that PBS viewers may see in the TV series Poldark are a tourism phenomenon for Cornwall – but only because they are closed and preserved as living history. Their economic and social usefulness long ago fading away from pre-1850 when the tin mines were the Silicon Valley of their delay and Gwennap parish was known as the richest square mile on earth.

Now Cornwall, in the aftermath of Brexit silliness, as with Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales, is urging central government to confirm the replacement of EU funds – in Cornwall’s case an average of £60M each year over the last 10 years, And similar sums in East Kent with the same EU designation for aid.

While The Big Pit National Coal Museum in Wales is preserved as a living museum to the coal mines and culture that extended through Yorkshire and the Midlands, to here in East Kent and on to the coalfields of Northern France and Belgium as painted by Ramsgate’s Vincent Van Gogh and described in his letters at the Rijkmuseum - perhaps Ramsgate's equivalent of the Buriram lintels.

While Germany’s Ruhr Valley around Essen now is the 2017 EU Green City having successfully completed the transition form an industrial region by dismantling its coalfields, power stations etc.

And just last month the UK’s trade unions celebrated the Summer and bank holiday with the giant Tin Man sculpture and parade celebrating the UNESCO industrial heritage links.

Shades of the giant Mechanical Elephant that graced East Kent’s seafront in Margate and the iconic Dreamland amusement park with the heritage-listed (real) lion cages?

And here in Kent, as at the Lake District’s Sellafield, the latter the UK’s first nuclear power station and the former Dungeness power station, both have visitor centres that do attract tourists although mainly school visits or the occasional tourist who has strayed off the beaten path to Lake Windermere or Canterbury.

Of course such visitors only hear how wonderful nuclear power is, not the repeated safety breaches and contaminating leaks – indeed surely the first visitor to get their knobbly-knees into a chem-hazard suit and facemask could win a prize?

BBCTV's Panorama just this week exposing horrifying pollution and contamination at Sellafield:

If the Poldark country of Cornwall now benefits from the set-jetting phenomenon of visiting TV and film locations then East Kent hasn't yet seized the opportunity that the EKFOS East Kent Film Office and Studio should generate for East Kent. And unfortunately nuclear power stations are only likely to be a rerun of the Chernobyl disaster. More akin to a disaster movie as detailed in Jason Robards' The Day After, Threads or When the Wind Blows.

Or the asbestos inaction riddling Kent’s schools akin to a zombie movie of tattered flesh and weeping sores. Parliament itself is still riddled with the material (the site designed by Pugin of Ramsgate)and due to close after 2020 for a £6BN cleanup.

The current debate around nuclear power in UK has centred on the glowing core of Chinese investment and cyber-security risks, but also concerns of the build cost, decommissioning and cleanup cost and astonishingly expensive electricity; over 3x the existing rates.

How did the Hinkley project get so far down the track before it was switched off?

And MI5 has been called in to review the new digital SmartMeters rolling gout to every UK household, to ensure the lights don’t go out everywhere at once.

And just yesterday, The Sunday Times reported Lord West’s valid concerns – the former Admiral of the Fleet at last not banging on about more Royal Navy ships, only to have them be berthed in port or sailing around on AmbreSolaire tours on the rates. But, real concerns over the Reuben brothers sale of data centres to a Chinese company with PLA links that stored UK financial data on its web servers. The strange excuse that the company only handled the building and electricity missing the point of switching off the computer servers.

Surely future Thailand as UK needs a more joined-up power supply than just coal on the beach? The UK is still far behind Germany, Netherlands and Denmark in renewables and recycling but has moved on in leaps and bounds in the last few years to ensure delivery of the EU zero carbon energy policy before 2050. The UK's only nuclear export project of a reactor to Vietnam seems pointless for ASEAN given contamination and solar as with Desertec.

And energy tourism for renewables can be more sustainable in every sense. East Kent has one of the world’s largest windfarms off the coast, and already something of a tourist attraction with boat trips out to see the wind turbines – as well as repair boats.

And even calls to preserve the nearby Goodwin Sands and it’s rich heritage of cricket on the sandbanks at low tide and rich crop of historical shipwrecks. Even a rare German WW2bomber released from the sand for modern archaeologists and an extensive BBC documentary.

While the local seafood industry has seen a boon in oysters, cockles and whelks in the cool, clear water around the base of the turbines and careful management of the fisheries eg sea bass sales in the Surin Thai Restaurant (try the sea bass with lime juice!).

And Vattenfall windfarms are active in management of the rare seabirds nesting around the UNESCO-designated coast famous for the iconic White Cliffs of Dover and the Landings of Caesar and St Augustine and Jorvik Viking heritage of Hengist and Horsa.

So, Khun Sirinya is right to question the viability of the Songkhla power station and viability of coal tourism compared to preserving the beach and sustainable tourism.

Indeed the only use of a facemask at Pak Bhang should be to protect the grilled pork sellers from cooking fumes from their delicious wares. Over 7M air pollution deaths worldwide including cooking fumes:

Only Sweden and Israel, go to the trouble and expense of issuing gas masks to all their civilian population, the former on the basis of Chernobyl discharge, and the latter from another Saddam-style chemical weapons attack.

Facemasks at Songkhla should only be to mask the smiles at the silly idea of coal tourism for Thailand’s beautiful beaches.

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity advertising agency, Surin Village School charity, first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 per year, MP candidate for East Kent to build better relations with Thailand. Try the sea bass.

Misc points:

* July Updates:

* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids

* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships

* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror

* One Essex court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc

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