Columns 27.7.2018 08:15 am

China is no guardian of clean energy

Kusile Power Station during construction in March 2015. Picture: Charles Cilliers

Kusile Power Station during construction in March 2015. Picture: Charles Cilliers

The economic powerhouse is hardly a better world parent and guardian of cleanliness than I am at the ice-cream parlour with my two-year-old.

I don’t think you will easily find a messier piglet than my two-year-old.

Egg is always dirty, no matter how often you hose her down or wash her face.

She loves mud or soil, but her absolute favourite is ice-cream. As a matter of fact, the two of us have already been banned from an ice-cream shop in our local mall, but it’s not too upsetting – there’s another one where she can get her fix.

Luckily the one where we are still allowed is our favourite, because the soft serve cones are cheap and they serve bottles full of sweet syrup to put on it. Little Egg simply loves the place.

The staff, however, enjoy her visits less. You can see it on their faces when we enter. And even more so when we leave a table splattered with pools of ice-cream, streaks of syrup and mountains of crumpled napkins.

The lovely Snapdragon is a better parent in this regard, I must confess, because she succeeds in keeping little Egg reasonably presentable for much longer than I can.

I should stop her. I know I should. But the dirty little dear enjoys herself so much, I simply can’t do it.

Which makes me think about China.

The Chinese have just offered Eskom a R33 billion loan for the Kusile power station project in Mpumalanga. The South African government has provided the guarantee.

This is an even bigger worry than Eskom’s usual lack of fiscal discipline. The Chinese, as leaders in the fight against climate change, are well aware of the huge contribution that the burning of fossil fuels such as coal makes to global warming.

Greenpeace believes the power station will drive us closer to “unstoppable climate change” and use massive amounts of precious water resources. And you can’t find much fault with their argument.

Both China and our own government should realise that coal-burning power stations are an ecological dead-end and should re-examine their morally indefensible support of Kusile.

If China invested that huge pile of cash in renewable energy, I would have celebrated with Eskom.

But as things stand, the economic powerhouse is hardly a better world parent and guardian of cleanliness than I am at the ice-cream parlour.

Dirk Lotriet. Picture: Alaister Russell

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