Egyptian NGOs concerned about government's proposals for coal as an alternative source of energy: Ongoing depletion of natural and human resources to increase investors’ profits
The undersigned organizations are extremely concerned about Minister of Industry and Trade Mounir Fakhri Abd al-Nour’s promotion of coal as an alternative to natural gas in cement and ceramic factories. This move would benefit a minority of investors seeking the highest profits possible without regard for the economic, health and environmental damage sustained by current and future generations. The ineffectual economic policies of the Mubarak era and later the Muslim Brotherhood government, which served elite business interests at the expense of wider society, continue under the current government.
In what appears to be a campaign led by the minister of industry and trade, the media recently reported s on the necessity and benefit of coal as an alternative to natural gas in addressing the current energy problems in Egypt. This campaign has used exaggerations, misinformation and incomplete, inaccurate data, with the aim of overriding objections from the environmental minister and many civil society groups concerned with the environment.
The undersigned organizations are especially concerned that the decision is being made with undue haste. Switching to coal is a serious strategic decision. Coal is more polluting than gas, and the use, transport, extraction and disposal of coal waste carries serious health risks. The transition to coal also entails substantial economic costs, including constructing the infrastructure necessary to import, transport and store it, as well as the technologies needed to use it. We currently face a complete lack of any economic studies on feasibility, pricing and supply guarantees or environmental studies on the environmental and health consequences and costs. According to a statement from the minister, LE3 billion has already been spent even before the decision to switch to coal has been approved, illustrating the arbitrary nature of government policy.
The undersigned organizations stress that coal is so polluting that numerous developed countries have turned away from it.International banks such as the World Bank and the European Investment Bank are cutting funding for coal projects, especially since so-called “clean coal” technologies are still unproven and not yet efficient. In Egypt specifically there are virtually no environmental protections given the current legal and institutional weaknesses of government environmental and administrative bodies.Pollution around cement factories is already significant, harming the health of local residents and factory workers.
We recognize that the country is facing a shortage of natural gas and petroleum and that a substantial shortage of natural gas is affecting the production and profits of many energy-intensive industries like cement. Solutions proposed by experts include conserving energy consumption, diversifying energy sources and expanding the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind energy and biofuels.
Instead, however, the government has chosen to prioritise the interests of investors - especially owners of cement and ceramic companies, who seem to be the main force behind this campaign -at the expense of people's health, the environment and even the nation’s economies. These highly polluting, energy-intensive industries, most of which export most or all of their production, receive natural gas subsidized by the government at prices less than half of that on the international market. Instead of ending such economic foolishness and lifting gas subsidies, thus immediately saving the treasury billions of pounds, the minister of industry and trade is seeking to supply the cheapest coal to these factories despite the severe environmental risks. At the same time, the budget will be burdened with billions in coal infrastructure costs, and all of this to protect cement investors’ profits, which are already much higher than in other countries.
For more information see:
1. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
3. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
4. Hurgada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA)
5. Habi Center for Environmental Rights
6. 350 Movement
7. Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM)
8. The Association for Health & Environmental Development (AHED)
9. Green Arm – Nahdel El-Mahrousa
10. Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE)