8/6/15, "Is it too late to stop Turkey's coal rush?" UK Guardian, Damian Carrington
"The Afşin-Elbistan station is planning to expand
into the biggest coal-fired power plant in the world....
Turkey has very big plans for coal, with more than 80 new plants in
the pipeline, equivalent in capacity to the UK’s entire power sector.
The scale of the coal rush is greater than any country on Earth, after China and India....
Turkey is desperate to keep stoking its fast-growing economy and to
wean itself off its enormous dependence on Russian gas. But opponents
warn that coal brings a heavy human health toll, estimated to already
cost Turkey several billion Euros a year, and they point to the virtual
absence of solar power in the sunny country.
A short drive from Goğulhan, Hussein Alp Aslan, is looking down on
vast 20km-long opencast coal mine that feeds the Afşin-Elbistan plant
with low-quality, highly polluting lignite coal....
Aslan is clear how Turkey’s future energy needs should be met:
“Turkey is a sunny country and in this region we could build hundreds of
wind turbines. What is most beautiful about wind turbines is they are
built in isolated areas where nobody goes. Coal
should be the last option.” But Afşin-Elbistan sits on the largest coal
deposit in Turkey and the existing plants and mine employ about 2,800
About 700km to the north, on the Black Sea coast, lies Zonguldak....A
new $1bn coal power station is planned here, backed by Chinese
For Sahin, coal itself is not the problem, but the way it it used. “I
agree with the air pollution concerns, but they have to take the
correct measures to put filters on the power stations, and they are not
doing it,” he says. “We have to use local resources. Would you prefer
nuclear power here? It is much more dirty – look at Chernobyl.”...
The small mine, producing 600 tonnes a day from its 4km of tunnels,
is owned by Musa Demir. He is far less enthusiastic about the future of
coal than his government, saying he has had to lay off half his 630
workers. His costs have been pushed up by new regulations following the 2014 mining disaster at Soma which killed 311 men and shocked the nation, which had the deadliest coal mining safety record in the world....
The Turkish government has emphasised the use of indigenous resources
in pushing its coal rush, but 95% of the fuel used by plants built in
the last five years has come from abroad. Opposition to these coal
imports is an issue that unites both the coal miners and local groups
campaigning against the new plant in Zonguldak, where a green mountain
spur on the coast is being cut away to expand the port....
Despite the solar
water heaters being near ubiquitous on roofs, the photovoltaic panels
that produce electricity are rare. Government permits for solar panels
are very limited, despite being oversubscribed by 10 times, and Turkey’s
target is for just 5% of electricity to come from the sun by 2023....
A recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance report,
commissioned by WWF-Turkey [and funded by European Climate Foundation], found that expanding Turkey’s wind, solar
and hydropower could meet its energy needs for the same cost as the coal
rush, while keeping carbon emissions level....
Atmiş is a forestry expert at a local university and points to a 36km
[22.3 mi.] swathe cut through the region’s famous forests for power lines in
December. The move, he says, is intended to make the approval process
for the power plants a fait accompli, as is a new coal mine in Amasra....
The Guardian requested interviews with
Turkey’s energy ministry, the
environment ministry and the
companies involved in the various projects
but none were granted.
Government support for coal is strong, including substantial
subsidies, but projects in the newly privatised industry require
financing. On 16th floor of Garanti Bank’s headquarters in Istanbul, the
glass walls show a glittering panorama of the booming city as executive
vice president Ebru Dildar Edin explains the bank’s approach.
Garanti Bank is the biggest funder of Turkey’s new coal plants and
Edin says the projects represent attractive loans because the low price
of coal makes them look profitable. But she acknowledges pollution and
climate change concerns: “It is not good that gas plants will be
replaced by coal.”
Edin says Garanti Bank imposes tougher environmental and social
conditions on its loans and has turned down a coal project that would
not agree to them. It was funded, nevertheless, by another bank."...
Top image caption: "The vast open-cast coal mine and the state-owned coal power stations of
Afsin-Elbistan that are planned to be expanded into the biggest
coal-fired plant in the world.
Photograph: Sean Smith for The Guardian"
Second image, Map of Turkey coal plants from UK Guardian.
Construction of new Erdogan palace destroyed part of environmentally protected forest given to Turkish state
under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938):
12/9/2014, "Recep Tayip Erdogan’s Nice House and Bad Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs Review UK, Miles Harrison
"The new Presidential Palace, also known as ‘Ak Saray,’ meaning ‘White
Palace’ in Turkish – a name bearing close resemblance to AKP, the
Turkish acronym of Erdogan’s political party– has been embroiled in
controversy since its construction began outside the Turkish capital
Ankara in 2011.
Built in an environmentally protected forest given to the Turkish state
under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the patriarch of Turkey’s secular
democracy, its construction was declared illegal by several court orders
earlier in the year. Undeterred, Erdogan challenged his opposition back
in March to “tear it down if they [opposition parties] can. They
ordered the suspension, yet they can’t stop this building."...
Hundreds of trees were cut down to accommodate new palace 4 times the size of Versailles:
11/5/2014, "Turkey's president moves into world's biggest palace costing £384 million," UK Telegraph, David Blair
"Recep Tayyip Erdogan's new residence is four times the size of Versailles,
comfortably exceeding the grandeur of Louis XIV of France"...
"The bathrooms have silk wallpaper and the whole edifice is surrounded by
a forested park. Hundreds of trees were felled to make way for the
president’s new home....
Unlike all previous presidents, Mr Erdogan routinely chairs
cabinet meetings. He has also spent £115 million on a new presidential
jet, designed and supplied by Airbus to his own specification.
As for critics of his new palace, Mr Erdogan said: “No one can prevent
the completion of this building. If they are powerful enough, let them
come and demolish it.”"
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