Poland: It is Not Your Atmosphere.

The last two governments in Poland have echoed a nationalistic theme on energy policy to the effect that Poland should be free to make its own choices on its energy mix. Coal is historically the overwhelmingly dominant source of power and should remain so as a national prerogative. If all of our neighbors want to have green energy as a big part of their mix, that is their choice, but not Poland's.  This is basically and fundamentally flawed logic.

A new NGO study by HEAL, however, brings all of this rhetoric into focus: Poland does not own the atmosphere and has no legal, moral and philosophical right to poison its neighbors. If the shoe was on the other foot and Poland's neighbors were doing this to Poland, we can imagine the outrage of the more nationalistic Polish political voices.

Unfortunately, the Polish power plants excel in emissions to the whole of Europe, causing each year more than 5,800 premature deaths, including 4690 overseas. The deterioration of health caused by breathing polluted air also generates health costs charged to the whole of society - says Veronica Piestrzyńska of the Polish branch of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL Poland).

Lignite-fired power plant in Belchatow (PGE) emits far the most polluting of all classified plants, causing annually approx. 1,270 premature deaths. The top five most poisonous plants were also plants in Kozienice (Enea) and Rybnik (EDF), causing each year respectively 650 and 480 premature deaths.

- The transformation towards cleaner sources of energy should be a joint effort of all European countries, but the specific task of standing here in front of Polish, which is the largest in the energy emitter of pollutants - says Marek Józefiak the Polish Green Network.

Poland uses coal for 83% of its energy. It has successfully applied for extra time to meet all EU obligations to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. Polish politicians have extracted billions of Euro of EU funding to transition away from a coal-based economy, close mines, and promote renewable energy. But this money has almost entirely been spent to sustain the old energy infrastructure, extending the life of old-fashioned and obsolete coal mines and power plants past their useful life. 

Poland has so far successfully used other people's money to keep its ancient and uneconomic energy infrastructure on life support, while simultaneously dumping the pollutants into the air shared by all of its neighbors. This is done in the name of providing cheap energy, but Polish electricity is more expensive than most of our neighbors, despite the EU and Polish subsidies.  

Obviously Poland cannot continue to defy the laws of economics, even if it can avoid any moral accountability for its energy policies. The time is finally running out for the old obsolete coal-fired plants built in the Soviet era. Modernizing them is prohibitively expensive and financing new coal-fired plants is quite problematic in Europe at this point. Polish politicians can coerce the state-owned companies to stay the course, but this source of financial support is now waning.

Unfortunately at the moment, most Poles want ever more control over their national destiny, seemingly preferring an energy catastrophic failure as long as it is driven off the cliff by a Polish driver. 

From "Thelma and Louise."                             LINK to full report.


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