Wednesday, 28 January 2015

#OccupyGhana Has A Role To Play In Ridding Ghana of Public-Sector Thievery And Incompetence

It did not come as a surprise to me to hear that unlike many of his party colleagues, Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketia, the general secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), is of the view that #OccupyGhana is an organisation that is helping to fight corruption in Ghana.

Although I have been critical of him, on occassion, in the past, I have always been of the opinion that Mr. Asiedu Nketia is a very shrewd political operator - and is a down to earth, plain-speaking politician, who, unlike so many members of our political class, is completely without affectation.

An important politician with the common touch, his approachable  nature is refreshing - and is in sharp contrast with the tiresome self-importance displayed by the many who suffer from the "big-man-syndrome" in the Ghanaian political world: who take themselves far too seriously.

Few male politicians anywhere in the world, would have been able to laugh off and dismiss the embarrassment of appearing in public during an official trip abroad, wearing a female winter coat, as inconsequential.

Yet Asiedu Nketia's response to the taunting and derision of his political opponents, was that he did not travel with the president to Germany for a fashion show -  and that in his opinon there were far more important issues of concern to the country to deal with (to paraphrase him).

The positive view that Mr. Asiedu Nketia has of #OccupyGhana is one that will serve the NDC well, if a majority of the party's leading lights adopted it - and made use of the enthusiasm #OccupyGhana's members are showing for tackling corruption in Ghana: and leveraged their determination to make our system more efficient and transparent.

After all, the 1992 constitution enjoins all Ghanaians to fight corruption, wherever, and whenever they come across it, does it not? And in any case, in nation-building,  one needs not love all those one works with, in the improvement of our country, does one?

#OccupyGhana's members' sense of patriotism should not be doubted by those in  the NDC  who are suspicious of their motives - and think that they are a covert wing of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). 

When they express such opinions about #OccupyGhana in public, the world only ends up doubting the genuineness of the commitment to democracy of those  members of the NDC, whose knee-jerk reaction to those who criticise the government, is to question their motives - and condemn them as lackeys of their political opponents.

What is driving previuosly apolitical and politically inactive individuals into activitist organisations like #OccupyGhana, is love of country, and the frustration that comes from being totally fed up with endless corruption and the incompetence shown by so many of those in charge of public-sector entities - which results in poor service delivery by public-sector organisations, such as the utilities: and the negative impact that has on the quality of life of millions of ordinary Ghanaians.

The earlier those in government see what is a tectonic shift in Ghanaian politics for what it actually is - a writing on the wall for members of our political class who are drinking in the last chance saloon but seem to be oblivious of the fact - the better it will be for them.

The Fifi Kweteys of the NDC  would be wise to make use of pressure groups like #OccupyGhana in the fight against the inertia and obstructionism one comes across in so many public-sector entities.

(A small tip for the Hon. Fifi Kwetey: if he wants to leave a legacy like that of Colonel Frank George Bernasko's at the ministry of food and agriculture, he must  fight to make income from all farming, not just cocoa farming, tax free. Ditto income from  the entire value-chain of the agro-industrial sector. But I digress.)

#OccupyGhana definitely has a role to play in ridding Ghana of public-sector thievery and incompetence. They must be encouraged in what they do in the public sphere  - not derided and condemned for standing up for their country and all its people: at a particularly difficult period in the history of our homeland Ghana.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Ghana's Ruling Elites Must Stop Signing Lousy One-Sided PPP Agreements

Simnet has been in the news recently - for all the wrong reasons. Yet, at the opening of an office complex for Simnet in November 2000, the then deputy minister of finance, the Hon. Moses Asaga, said in a speech read on his behalf, that the new Simnet platform would be "self-auditing"  and  "transparent".

That same day, the founder of Simnet, Ish Kumar Handa, presented a cheque for 30 million old cedis to a minister of state, the Hon. Margaret Clark-Kwasie, to be given to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Media reports at the time stated that an agreement between Simnet and the Department of National Lotteries (DNL), as it then was, had been signed in 1999.

Why then did it take so long for the online networked lottery platform to be put in place, for the first draw under the Simnet partnership to take place in the year 2005 - the year from which the count for the ten-year agreement apparently begins? What went on in the intervening years between 1999 and 2005?

Current events clearly show that those who signed the agreement between the DNL and Simnet did a lousy job. The agreement they signed favoured Simnet not Ghana - and they should all bow their heads in shame.

Pointing to the legal travails of the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), as an egregious example of the "create-loot-and-share" phenomenon, there are those who say that the "crooks-in-high-places" have struck again - contriving yet again to use the law courts as legal cover to milk Ghana dry. And, incredibly, it is said that there is the possibilty of another US$45millions being extracted from the hapless NLA. Amazing.

Where in the world but Ghana, would a foreign company contracted to provide a state-owned entity with lottery point of sale terminals, fail to do so timeously, and then get away with shutting down the system and preventing lottery draws from taking place, in retaliation, because the state-owned lottery took steps on its own to ensure that it had the requisite lottery point of sale terminals in place to satisfy demand across the nation?

A confident and proud nation like Nigeria, despite being lumbered with massive high-level corruption, would never tolerate such corporate impudence. How did our homeland Ghana come to such a sorry pass - with parts of officialdom bending over backwards to 'placate' and please rogue foreign concerns engaged in the  rip-off of our country?

Whatever happened to the promise Simnet made to the Hon. Moses Asaga that its networked online lottery platform would be "self-auditing" and "transparent"? One presumes Asaga was merely repeating Simnet's promise to the government in his speech.

So 'transparent' was the Simnet 'self-auditing' process, that apparently three international audit firms had to undertake the task of unraveling it in a court of law - each commissioned to audit the process and present its report.

It was third time lucky for Simnet -  the reports of the first two audit firms not being in its favour. It was the last audit report that was favourable to Simnet - which rejected the first two audits that were unfavourable to it. Hard to believe, but true, alas.

Surely, by failing to provide the extra required numbers of point of sale terminals, and shutting down the system to prevent lottery draws from taking place, it was Simnet that actually ended up breaching the agreement?

The question then is: In view of all the above, why is the NLA not appealing that Ghc30 millions judgment against it - when it apparently never actually formally abrogated its agreement with Simnet?

In November 1963, at the official opening of the Tema Oil Refinery, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, paid glowing tribute to Signor Enrico Mattei, who was instrumental in setting up the Ghanaian-Italian Petroleum Company - who had just died in a plane crash in his native Italy.

Nkrumah stated at one point during his speech that: "The Ghanaian-Italian Company is an inter-state enterprise of a special kind. And here I must pay tribute to a friend. It is interesting to note that AGIP Mineraria itself, which has given birth to Ghanaian-Italian Petroleum Company, owes its origin and growth to the vision and foresight of a politician and entrepreneur who harnessed his commercial genius with state enterprises in his own country. This is indeed an example of how the genius and skill of patriotic citizens can be put at the disposal of the state and not for the exploitation of the many by the few."

To be fair, we must presume that Ish Kumar Handa, the founder of Simnet, came to Ghana with good intensions. We must therefore assume that he did not come here to exploit our nation and its people.

Still, it will be interesting to know how much he brought into Ghana to begin with, and how much he pocketed when the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) acquired a 85 percent stake in the company. SSNIT apparently paid some US$8 millions for its stake.

Coming to Ghana must have been the luckiest break ever for him. What fools, he must have thought - as his headache was acquired  by a pension fund forced to act as a bank of last resort for Ghana's ruthless and greedy plutocrats.

And just who exactly owns Craig Holdings - which reportedly owns the remaining 15 percent stake in Simnet -  one wonders? It will indeed be interesting to discover who the promoters of Craig Holdings are.

Approval for the acquisition of Simnet became  a tug of war between elements in President Kufuor's administration in 2006, because some members of the administration were outraged by the price SSNIT was proposing to fork out, for the 85 percent stake it wanted to acquire in the company.

Databank, which was said to be previuosly planning to acquire Simnet for a reported US$2millions around that time,  suddenly pulled back from doing so, just before SSNIT entered the picture and ended up paying the US8millions for its 85 percent stake.

The question there is, why did Databank suddenly abandon its proposed takeover of Simnet? Are those who suggest (perhaps unfairly) that it somehow profited from insider information that led it to pull back from its proposed US$2 millions takeover, right to do so?

The present media attention focused on the alleged payment of some 30 million Ghana cedis to Simnet, by the NLA, on the orders of a court of law, should make Ghanaians ponder the difference in approach between  Nkrumah's win-win public private partnership (PPP) deals, and the one-sided rip-off PPP deals struck by our ruling elites since Nkrumash's overthrow in 1966, which invariably favour foreign 'investors'.

Why did the DNL not approach Editec directly itself to provide it with that company's  proprietory networked lottery platform - instead of going through Ish Kumar Handa's Simnet as per the 1999 agreement? That is what President Nkrumah would have ensured was done, had he been in power at the time.

Alas, it appears that our hard-of-hearing ruling elites are going to make yet another PPP mistake with the proposed new national airline - just so that another  well-connected regime-crony-tycoon can make zillions at Mother Ghana's expense again.

That is what happens when shortsighted individuals who seldom think creatively and are not original thinkers rule a nation.

Unfortunately, that has been the case with all the administrations' of both political parties that have ruled Ghana since the 4th Republic came into being: the National Democratic Congress (NDC)  and the New Patriotic Party (NPP).  It appears that when it comes to protecting the national interest in such cases, those two inherently-corrupt  political  parties,  are equally dented sides of the same debased coin.

The sensible thing to do in the case of the proposed national airline, for example, ought to be to approach an established low-cost carrier that is profitable, to set up a pan-African low-cost airline as a PPP  venture.

Why do the genuises who rule us not invite an international airline industry dynamo like  Michael O'Leary, of Ryanair, and ask his company to set up a pan-African joint-venture with Ghana? We should aim to have a pan-African low-cost carrier that flies point-to-point on the most profitable city routes across the continent in alliance with Ryanair - which will provide a fleet of new aircraft and leverage its management expertise.

Ryanair's European network will benefit the new national carrier, and and the new national carrier's (jointly-owned with Ryanair) routes in Africa and  to north America will benefit Ryanair in return.

What we will bring to the table will be the massive goodwill Ghana enjoys across Africa, getting the African Union (AU) to declare  the whole continent one open sky for all  airlines and joint-ownership of the Ghana Airports Company.

As a Plan B alternative, the founder of Easyjet, Sir Stelios Haj-Ioannou, could also be approached for the same purpose. In that instance, the new national carrier could leverage Easyjet's European network - and Easyjet could benefit from the national carrier's African and north American routes.

However, this being Ghana, this will probably never come to pass - because if the government approaches either Michael O'Leary or Sir Stelios Haj-Ioannou directly, no benefits will come the way of the plutocrats holding Mother Ghana to ransom. Pity.

The long-suffering people of Ghana are fed up with such shenanigens. Henceforth, our ruling elites must sign only win-win public private partnership agreements - not ripoff agreements that end up in the  law courts with judges awarding astronomical sums to impecunious 'investors' who come to Ghana with zilch but end up with zillions of dollars wrung out of our national treasury.

The Americans brought in by the Kufuor administration to set up Ghana International Airlines - that international airline industry equivalent of a dodo - and the Malaysians who were brought in by the Rawlings administration (and to whom  the state-owned shipyard  at Tema was handed over on a silver platter),  are classic examples of such foreign 'investors' who ended up costing Ghana's long-suffering taxpayers' dearly.

It is time Ghana's hard-of-hearing ruling elites stopped signing lousy, one-sided PPP agreements with dubious private 'investors'. Enough is enough.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Will Samiah Yaabah Nkrumah Accept Her Historic Duty?

Most discerning and patriotic Ghanaians have now come to the conclusion that the old-style politics that has polarised Ghanaian society must be abandoned - if Ghana is to forge ahead and prosper.

It has become obvious to most Ghanaians that if the purveyors of the old-style politics of mean-spirited partisanship are not sidelined in the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, they will destabilise the nation and tip it over the precipice.

As we all know, a feature of life in the 4th Republic, has been that during presidential and parliamentary elections, the  National  Democratic Congress (NDC) is often accused by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) of underhand tactics in the Volta Region, and the NPP  is also often accused of same in the Ashanti Region by the NDC.

And when either of the two parties is in power, those selfsame extremists actively sabotage the country's collective nation-building effort. For such extremists, political  power is a life and death matter - and if they even have to destroy Mother Ghana in order to come to power, so  be it.

For that reason, extremists in both parties will trade counter-accusations of rigging the elections, after the December 2016 polls close, and the results are declared - and, as sure as day follows night, resort to violence.

Yet, it is the last thing our country needs.  Ghana needs peace and stability after the 2016 elections - to enable the new regime to focus on alleviating poverty and creating the conditions that will enable an entrepreneurial culture to flourish.

That, not dealing with post-election violence, should be the priority of the newly-elected president and his national unity administration, after assuming power on 7th January,  2017.

Ghana must become a low-taxation investment destination with a national economy empowered by  low-interest rates in order to prosper.  The nation needs to remain stable at all costs - which is why we can no longer afford the politics of division and rancour. We must unite and forge ahead as a people with a common destiny.

Above all, we must end the power and influence of the vested interests that profit from high-level corruption - and to which the NDC  and the NPP are both beholden for funding their election campaigns and to fund party expenses. That can only be done if Ghanaians unite.

The historic duty of the followers of Osagyefgo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, in what is  Ghana's hour of need, is to provide leadership that will bring Ghanaians  together in a government of national unity - made up of the most brilliant, honest, selfless and patriotic individuals: from all the political parties in Ghana, as well as individuals from our nation's pool of world-class, apolitical technocrats.

The time has come for Ms. Samiah Yaabah Nkrumah to show her  leadership qualities. She must ensure that a coalition of all the Nkrumahist parties - each of which must maintain its identity - is brought into being as soon as practicable.

The object of that coalition will be to present a credible Nkrumahist presidential ticket for the 2016 presidential election - one that can demonstrate a clear commitment to transparency in party funding and a commitment to publicly publishing the assets of government appointees and their spouses: before their assumption of office  and immediately after their tenures' end.

In that regard, the most electable and most capable follower of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah on the political landscape today - at a time when Ghana so desperately needs a transparent and unifying leader who has a solid  track record of creating jobs and substantial wealth - is Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom.

Samiah Yaabah Nkrumah - who must be on the 2016 Nkrumahist presidential ticket with Nduom for the position of vice-president, and to whom the torch of leadership will be handed over in a generational shift in January 2021 - must show leadership by reconciling with Nduom.

It is she who must initiate moves to bring the Convention People's Party (CPP), the Great Consolidated People's Party (GCPP), the People's National Convention (PNC) and the Progressive People's Party (PPP) together in a coalition in which each party maintains its identity.

Nkrumahists will be able to unify Ghana - because they believe in one-nation politics in a united country of diverse-ethnicity in which no tribe is inferior or superior to another: and all ethnic groupings coexist peacefully.

They will succeed in transforming Ghana into an African equivalent of the egalitarian societies of Scandinavia - by focusing on wealth-creation through public private partnerships that empower Ghanaian private-sector entities.

In selecting Nduom, Nkrumahists will be selecting a candidate who in the 2012 presidential election was the only candidate who publicly published his filed tax returns, published the results of his medical check-up to prove he was fit for the rigours of  being president, and also publicly published the source of funding for his party.

He is also apparently committed to publishing the assets of both himself and his wife, before assuming  office as president and immediately after his tenure ends.

A bonus in selecting Nduom as the Nkrumahist coalition's presidential candidate, is that he will be able to fund all the Nkrumahist parties - and enable them to prove to Ghanaians that their coalition is committed to transparent party funding: and free from the iron-grip of vested interests in Ghana.

The question is: will Samiah Yaabah Nkrumah accept her historic duty - and initiate the process of bringing together all the Nkrumahist parties in a coalition to provide Ghana with a government of national unity made up of honest, brilliant and selfless patriots from all the political parties in Ghana, in January 2017?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Ghana's Security Agencies Must Approach The UK's Air & Space Evidence Limited To Solve Suspected Arson Cases And Other Crimes

If the authorities in Ghana want to solve suspected arson and murder cases, as well as catch those responsible for armed robberies and other types of violent crime across the country, my humble advice to them, is to engage the services of Air & Space Evidence Limited of London.

President Mahama must ask the heads of the security agencies to travel to the UK to meet Air & Space Evidence Limited, as soon as practicable - so that a working relationship between the Ghanaian security agencies and the British company is established.

The company uses satellite imagery to solve crimes - and can definitely resolve the case of the suspected arson attack that destroyed the  ministry of health's Central Medical Stores storage facility at Tema recently.

Since President Mahama is the chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), he can also link Nigeria's security agencies with Air & Space Evidence Limited, to help provide intelligence on the movement of Boko Haram's leadership and its fighters to the Nigerian military and police commands. That will make it easier to target and eliminate them through drone strikes.

It is time our security agencies adopted space technology in the fight against criminals in Ghana. And they can begin doing so by establishing  a working relationship with the UK's Air & Space Evidence Limited.

This is the kind of use Ghana ought to put some of the EU and UK development aid money it is given.

Could our security agencies not also monitor vital installations such as power plants,  power lines and electricity transformers across the country with the help of satellites in cost-effective fashion?  Ditto monitor the unapproved routes used by smugglers along our borders?

Approaching Air & Space Evidence Limited and establishing a working relationship with them, will empower Ghana's security agencies and enable them to solve crimes like armed robberies, arson attacks and murder cases across the country - including even some of those cases that have gone cold.

Will such collaboration not provide Ghana's security agencies with cutting-edge crime-fighting  capabilities that are  well-suited to keeping our nation and its people relatively safe and secure in the uncertain and dangerous times we now live in? Ghana's security agencies ought to approach UK Air and Space Evidence Limited as soon as practicable - and establish a working relationship with them.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Governance Underpinned By An Ethos Of Transparency Is The New Norm In Ghanaian Politics

Governance that is underpinned by an ethos of transparency is the new norm in Ghanaian politics - from the point of view of patriotic and discerning Ghanaians fed up with  the incompetence of the thieves-in-high-places who dominate our country. And long may it be so.

Politicians and political parties that embrace the new governance norm Ghanaians now demand, will be successful in the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. Those that stick to the discredited  old-style politics will be routed in the 2016 elections.

The question then is: How does this new governance norm manifest itself in our nation's politics today - and how will it influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections?

The vast majority of ordinary Ghanaians now clearly understand the importance of demanding transparency in the governance of our nation. That is what has given rise to civil society groups like #OccupyGhana and Food Sovereignty Ghana.

It  is also the driving force behind the demand that political parties should publicly publish their sources of funding - and that politicians (and their spouses) publicly publish their assets immediately before assuming office, and immediately after the end of their tenures.

Many discerning Ghanaians now understand that that is crucial if the fight against high-level corruption is to succeed. There must be transparency in all areas of our national life.

With tumbling oil prices, for example, we must demand accountability from those in charge of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) - some of whom think they are a law unto themselves and can go aborrowing whenever it takes their fancy: and without any outside scrutiny. What infernal cheek.

The GNPC will never be allowed to become the financial equivalent of a cosmic black-hole for well-connected thieves - through which taxpayers' cash disappears in clever schemes.

Listening to Peace FM's Kokrokoo morning show (hosted by Nana Yaw Kesse) earlier today, I was struck by just how out of touch with the new reality in Ghanaian politics so many of the membership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC)  and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) appear to be.

Whiles referring to corruption in the system, it is instructive that not once did any of those loquacious politicians taking part in the programme, state categorically that to help fight high-level corruption, they were willing to publicly publish their own assets (and those of their spouses).

And neither were they  heard stating emphatically that the NDC and the NPP would publicly publish their sources of funding for the campaign for the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The sooner the Sammy Awukus and the Fred Agbenyos, and their ilk,  understood that political parties and politicians that do not conform to the new governance standard, will never win elections in Ghana in 2016 and beyond, the better will be the long-term prospects for their two parties'.

For decades, under the old-style politics, Ghana has been held to ransom by vested interests that have consistently bought our ruling elites - often by paying them kickbacks from government contracts secured through the use of insider information.

How  else can one explain the curious situation in which private companies that freely elected to venture into the business of importing finished petroleum products (including diesel and petrol) into Ghana, themselves,  now expect the state to bear foreign exchange losses incurred by their businesses? How can that be, I ask?

Does that not amount to the socialisation of private risk? If Abossey Okai vehicle  spare parts dealers and Spintext Road bulk rice importers made such absurd demands, would it not bankrupt our country?

Such is the influence wielded by those selfsame bulk oil distributing companies that despite the fall in benchmark crude oil prices globally, the authorities appear to be reluctant to insist that  the drop in crude oil prices ought to be reflected in pump prices at petrol filling stations across Ghana,

Clearly, that outrage is to enable the bulk oil distributors to engage in profiteering at the expense of motorists in Ghana.

The fact that such fuel price reductions will be beneficial to an economy facing such serious challenges, if passed on to motorists, counts for nothing in Ghana - as far as our ruling elites are concerned.

Obviously, what matters to them is that bulk oil distributing companies will still make money despite the fall in crude oil prices on the international markets. Who exactly are the plutocrats who own those companies, one wonders?

Alas, it appears that what will enable the relatively few plutocrats who apparently more or less own our country to profit at society's expense, is what always holds sway in our homeland Ghana, in such instances.

That is why we must  rid our country of the baleful influence of the vested interests to which politicians of the ilk of the Sammy Awukus and the Fred Agbenyos are beholden - which fund the old-style politics practised by the NDC and NPP.

No patriotic Ghanaian should vote for any politician who refuses to publicly publish his or her assets (as well as those of his or her spouse). Neither should any patriotic Ghanaian support any political party that does not publicly publish the sources of campaign funds it raises for the 2016 presidential and parliamentary  elections.

If that new governance standard informs the way voters cast their votes in the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, it will help attract a new breed of politician to seek elected office in Ghana.

We must be grateful that governance underpinned by an ethos of transparency is the new norm in Ghanaian politics, from the point of view of patriotic and discerning Ghanaians - as it will help reduce high-level corruption in Ghana considerably.

Let all the members of  our nation's  political class, and all the political parties in Ghana take note of this new reality in our nation's politics, going forward - if they want to emerge  victorious in the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

We Stand With The Staff Of Charlie Hebdo And The People Of France - #NousSommesCharlie

The coldblooded murder of 12 individuals - including two male police officers -  in the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo,  and 4 Jewish hostages in a kosher supermarket,  as well as a policewoman, by Islamist extremists, in the French capital of Paris, has shocked people of varied faith across the world - including many Muslims.

It is noteworthy, and praiseworthy, that a delegation of 20 Imams from France's Muslim federations, visited the offices of Charlie Hebdo not too long after the murders, to commiserate with the remaining staff, whose colleagues were shot by the cowards who took their lives so callously.

It is proof that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful individuals who seek to coexist peacefully with their fellow humans - whatever their faith.

The Imam of the Parisian suburb of Drancy is reported by the UK's Guardian newspaper, to have condemned the Islamist terrorists who  committed the murders, saying: "These men are criminals, barbarians, satans. For me they are not Muslims."

He went on further to say: "Their hatred, their barbarism, has nothing to do with Islam. We are all French, we are all humans. We must live in respect, tolerance and solidarity."

Apparently the terrorists responsible for the Charlie Hebdo killings, shouted "Alahu Akbar" -  "God is great" in Arabic. They were also heard saying they had avenged the Prophet Mohammed.

It is difficult to understand how any sane individual could possibly think that God would approve of the murder of innocents on the Kingdom of Heaven's behalf. What blasphemy. What utter nonsense.

Those who kill and maim others can never be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is hell that awaits them, instead. God does not need mere mortals to fight His battles for Him. He is Omnipotent, after all.

And the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) would condemn all acts of terrorism involving innocents, were he alive today. Definitely.

Abominable and unspeakable acts of cruelty neither martyrs make nor give passage to paradise to murderers and the perpetrators of violence who engage in them - they do so only in the minds of evil, wicked and deranged individuals.

Doubtless, Ghanaians - a peaceful and freedom-loving people - of all faiths are commiserating with the people of France, as they mourn their loss.

Our hearts go out to the families of all those who lost their lives in that terrible tragedy. Those horrific events result from the warped thinking of unhinged, religious fanatics whose murderous ways are in no way representative of the Islamic religion.

In defending the right to freedom of expression, I am also sure that  many Ghanaian journalists stand in solidarity with the staff of Charlie Hebdo, and all the people of France  - who will neither be cowed by cowards wielding guns, nor silenced by mad and evil individuals prepared to kill their fellow humans: and impose their will on others that way. #NousSommesCharlie.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

If Ghana Is To Prosper We Must End Mean-Spirited Partisanship

It is gratifying to note that a groundswell of public opinion is building up in the country, against the old-style politics of mean-spirited partisanship.

Unfortunately,  we have now arrived at a situation in the 4th Republic, in which once a new administration assumes power, elements in the opposition party with the most potential to supplant the governing party at the next presidential and parliamentary  elections, then resort to sabotaging the nation-building effort.

Clearly, the purpose of such treasonable conduct is to derail the work of new administrations. To a degree, every administration in the 4th Republic has had to contend with this nation-wrecking trait,  in some of the hardliners amongst the membership of Ghana's  political class.

Yet, Ghana will never progress, if it remains polarised - with cynical politicians actively working to destabilise the country by pitting one part of the population against the other, to further their own ends: at society's expense. Some of the many public-sector strikes over the years readily come to mind.

Alas, it has resulted in the unfortunate situation in which the most ruthless and locquacious of the cynics amongst the membership of the two biggest political parties are constantly at loggerheads  -  creating unnecessary tension in Ghanaian society. It is all so unedifying and tiresome.

One of the ways this negativity manifests itself, is in  the never-ending propaganda battles on the airwaves of television and FM radio stations across the country, between spokespersons of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), which is the largest of the opposition parties.

What Ghana needs is a transparent government led by a president who is a one-nation politician and patriot (in the Nkrumah mould), who will unite the country by selecting the best people from all the political parties, to be part of his or her administration.

(Naturally, the president and his or her spouse, as well as all his or her appointees and their spouses, will publicly publish their assets immediately before assuming office, and immediately after their tenures' end. All the sources of the ruling party's election campaign's funding will also be publicly published. But I digress.)

All appointments in the public sector (particularly to the boards of public-sector entities) must also be based on the same principle - with the best-qualified and most suitable individuals appointed to such positions, irrespective of their political leanings. Ghana belongs to all its people, after all.

Our common purpose as a people must be the creation of a system that is transparent and efficient, which promotes the welfare of ordinary people and ensures the overall well-being of Ghanaian society. We must rid ourselves of the present Byzantine system - which facilitates corruption in our country.

Ghana is at a crossroads. The time has come for us to finally put aside mean-spirited partisanship -  the hidden agenda of the hardline politicians guilty of it (when in the political wilderness) being to make Ghana ungovernable: in the hope it will result in the ruling party's four-year period in power ending in failure.

To quote an old wag I know: "It is time the Bernard Antwi-Boasiakos were made irrelevant in our nation's politics."

 I concur with him. Surprising though it might be to the Bernard Antwi-Boasiakos, power in our homeland Ghana, is not for sale at any price to any individual or grouping - including even those with the most gold  who can marshal the most resources. And it matters not how power-hungry such individuals or groupings might be, either - their wealth will not buy them power in Ghana.

We need to embrace a new kind of politics in which service to our nation and all its people - not selfish personal ambition and lust for power - is what drives politicians and political parties.

That is the path to take if we are to become a prosperous African nation that is peaceful and stable - precisely the kind of polity that the long-suffering people of Ghana deserve to live in. If the enterprise Ghana is to thrive we must end mean-spirited partisanship in our nation's politics. Now. Not tomorrow.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Why Ghana Must Shun Coal-Fired Power Plants

As we endeavour to rid our nation of the filth slowly engulfing our towns and cities, on National Sanitation Day, it is also important that Ghanaians bear in mind that society ought to take steps to safeguard the air-quality of our towns and cities.

For that reason, today,  I am reproducing an article culled from National Geographic magazine's online edition.

Entitled, "Can Coal Ever Be Clean?",  it was written by Michelle Nijhuis. 

One hopes it will alert individuals in Ghana who care about the environment, and patriotic groups like  #OccupyGhana, to the dangers of blindly pursuing GDP growth, without considering the cost to society of what actually constitutes that growth, on the ground, in the real world.

What would we have achieved, if we become a prosperous nation, but one in which millions either die or suffer from respiratory diseases - because those who had the power to prevent coal-fired power plants from being built in Ghana did not think that decision through properly: and ignored the public health implications of sanctioning the building of such dirty power plants in our homeland Ghana?

Nothing can justify the sanctioning of the construction of such power plants in Ghana. Not when we can ramp up the renewables sector by  making it's entire value chain tax-free - and there are enough gas deposits in the oilfields off our nation's shores which can be exploited to provide natural gas to fire thermal power plants in our country.

We must never  allow the resolution of what is  a pressing short-term power-generating problem, which is only an inconvenient and temporary power deficit, to rush the country into taking a decision that will affect the quality of life of present and future generations of our people over the long term, by condemning them to a lifetime of battling respiratory diseases.

Please read on:


Picture of Juliette, Georgia

Can Coal Ever Be Clean?

It’s the dirtiest of fossil fuels. We burn eight billion tons of it a year, with growing consequences. The world must face the question.

By Michelle Nijhuis
Photograph by Robb Kendrick

Coal provides 40 percent of the world’s electricity. It produces 39 percent of global CO₂ emissions. It kills thousands a year in mines, many more with polluted air.

Environmentalists say that clean coal is a myth. Of course it is: Just look at West Virginia, where whole Appalachian peaks have been knocked into valleys to get at the coal underneath and streams run orange with acidic water. Or look at downtown Beijing, where the air these days is often thicker than in an airport smoking lounge. Air pollution in China, much of it from burning coal, is blamed for more than a million premature deaths a year. That’s on top of the thousands who die in mining accidents, in China and elsewhere.

These problems aren’t new. In the late 17th century, when coal from Wales and Northumberland was lighting the first fires of the industrial revolution in Britain, the English writer John Evelyn was already complaining about the “stink and darknesse” of the smoke that wreathed London. Three centuries later, in December 1952, a thick layer of coal-laden smog descended on London and lingered for a long weekend, provoking an epidemic of respiratory ailments that killed as many as 12,000 people in the ensuing months. American cities endured their own traumas. On an October weekend in 1948, in the small Pennsylvania town of Donora, spectators at a high school football game realized they could see neither players nor ball: Smog from a nearby coal-fired zinc smelter was obscuring the field. In the days that followed, 20 people died, and 6,000 people—nearly half the town—were sickened.

Coal, to use the economists’ euphemism, is fraught with “externalities”—the heavy costs it imposes on society. It’s the dirtiest, most lethal energy source we have. But by most measures it’s also the cheapest, and we depend on it. So the big question today isn’t whether coal can ever be “clean.” It can’t. It’s whether coal can ever be clean enough—to prevent not only local disasters but also a radical change in global climate.

Last June, on a hot and muggy day in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama gave the climate speech that the American coal and electric power industries had dreaded—and environmentalists had hoped for—since his first inauguration, in 2009. Speaking in his shirt-sleeves and pausing occasionally to mop his brow, Obama announced that by June 2014 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would draft new rules that would “put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants.” The rules would be issued under the Clean Air Act, a law inspired in part by the disaster in Donora. That law has already been used to dramatically reduce the emission of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and soot particles from American power plants. But carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, is a problem on an entirely different scale.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
In 2012 the world emitted a record 34.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. Coal was the largest contributor. Cheap natural gas has lately reduced the demand for coal in the U.S., but everywhere else, especially in China, demand is surging. During the next two decades several hundred million people worldwide will get electricity for the first time, and if current trends continue, most will use power produced by coal. Even the most aggressive push for alternative energy sources and conservation could not replace coal—at least not right away.

How fast the Arctic melts, how high the seas rise, how hot the heat waves get—all these elements of our uncertain future depend on what the world does with its coal, and in particular on what the U.S. and China do. Will we continue to burn it and dump the carbon into the air unabated? Or will we find a way to capture carbon, as we do sulfur and nitrogen from fossil fuels, and store it underground?
“We need to push as hard as we can for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and on reducing carbon emissions from coal,” says Stanford University researcher Sally Benson, who specializes in carbon storage. “We’re going to need lots of ‘ands’—this isn’t a time to be focusing on ‘ors.’ ” The carbon problem is just too big.

American Electric Power’s Mountaineer Plant, on the Ohio River in New Haven, West Virginia, inhales a million pounds of Appalachian coal every hour. The coal arrives fresh from the ground, on barges or on a conveyor belt from a mine across the road. Once inside the plant, the golf-ball-size lumps are ground into dust as fine as face powder, then blown into the firebox of one of the largest boilers in the world—a steel box that could easily swallow the Statue of Liberty. The plant’s three steam-powered turbines, painted blue with white stars, supply electricity round the clock to 1.3 million customers in seven states. Those customers pay about a dime per kilowatt-hour, or roughly $113 a month, to power the refrigerators, washers, dryers, flat screens, and smartphones, to say nothing of the lights, of an average household. And as Charlie Powell,
 Mountaineer’s plant manager, often said, even environmentalists like to keep the lights on.

The customers pay not a cent, however, nor does American Electric Power (AEP), for the privilege of spewing six to seven million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year from Mountaineer’s thousand-foot-high stack. And that’s the problem. Carbon is dumped without limit because in most places it costs nothing to do so and because there is, as yet, no law against it in the U.S. But in 2009 it looked as if there might soon be a law; the House of Representatives had already passed a bill that summer. AEP, to its credit, decided to get ahead of it.

That October, Mountaineer began a pioneering experiment in carbon capture. Powell oversaw it. His father had worked for three decades at a coal-fired power plant in Virginia; Powell himself had spent his career at Mountaineer. The job was simple, he said: “We burn coal, make steam, and run turbines.” During the experiment, though, it got a bit more complicated. AEP attached a chemical plant to the back of its power plant. It chilled about 1.5 percent of Mountaineer’s smoke and diverted it through a solution of ammonium carbonate, which absorbed the CO₂. The CO₂ was then drastically compressed and injected into a porous sandstone formation more than a mile below the banks of the Ohio.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
The system worked. Over the next two years AEP captured and stored more than 37,000 metric tons of pure carbon dioxide. The CO₂ is still underground, not in the atmosphere. It was only a quarter of one percent of the gas coming out the stack, but that was supposed to be just the beginning. AEP planned to scale up the project to capture a quarter of the plant’s emissions, or 1.5 million tons of CO₂ a year. The company had agreed to invest $334 million, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had agreed to match that. But the deal depended on AEP being able to recoup its investment. And after climate change legislation collapsed in the Senate, state utility regulators told the company that it could not charge its customers for a technology not yet required by law.

In the spring of 2011 AEP ended the project. The maze of pipes and pumps and tanks was dismantled. Though small, the Mountaineer system had been the world’s first to capture and store carbon dioxide directly from a coal-fired electric plant, and it had attracted hundreds of curious visitors from around the world, including China and India. “The process did work, and we educated a lot of people,” said Powell. “But geez-oh-whiz—it’s going to take another breakthrough to make it worth our while.” A regulatory breakthrough above all—such as the one Obama promised last summer—but technical ones would help too.

Capturing carbon dioxide and storing or “sequestering” it underground in porous rock formations sounds to its critics like a techno-fix fantasy. But DOE has spent some $6.5 billion over the past three decades researching and testing the technology. And for more than four decades the oil industry has been injecting compressed carbon dioxide into depleted oil fields, using it to coax trapped oil to the surface. On the Canadian Great Plains this practice has been turned into one of the world’s largest underground carbon-storage operations.

Since 2000 more than 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide have been captured from a North Dakota plant that turns coal into synthetic natural gas, then piped 200 miles north into Saskatchewan. There the Canadian petroleum company Cenovus Energy pushes the CO₂ deep into the Weyburn and Midale fields, a sprawling oil patch that had its heyday in the 1960s. Two to three barrels of oil are dissolved out of the reservoir rock by each ton of CO₂, which is then reinjected into the reservoir for storage. There it sits, nearly a mile underground, trapped under impermeable layers of shale and salt.

For how long? Some natural deposits of carbon dioxide have been in place for millions of years—in fact the CO₂ in some has been mined and sold to oil companies. But large and sudden releases of CO₂ can be lethal to people and animals, particularly when the gas collects and concentrates in a confined space. So far no major leaks have been documented at Weyburn, which is being monitored by the International Energy Agency, or at any of the handful of other large storage sites around the world. Scientists consider the risk of a catastrophic leak to be extremely low.

They worry more about smaller, chronic leaks that would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. Geophysicists Mark Zoback and Steven Gorelick of Stanford University argue that at sites where the rock is brittle and faulted—most sites, in their view—the injection of carbon dioxide might trigger small earthquakes that, even if otherwise harmless, might crack the overlying shale and allow CO₂ to leak. Zoback and Gorelick consider carbon storage “an extremely expensive and risky strategy.” But even they agree that carbon can be stored effectively at some sites—such as the Sleipner gas field in the North Sea, where for the past 17 years the Norwegian oil company Statoil has been injecting about a million tons of CO₂ a year into a brine-saturated sandstone layer half a mile below the seabed. That formation has so much room that all that CO₂ hasn’t increased its internal pressure, and there’s been no sign of quakes or leaks.

Sources: EPA; Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy; Woods Hole Research Center
European researchers estimate that a century’s worth of European power plant emissions could be stored under the North Sea. According to the DOE, similar “deep saline aquifers” under the U.S. could hold more than a thousand years’ worth of emissions from American power plants. Other types of rock also have potential as carbon lockers. In experiments now under way in Iceland and in the Columbia River Basin of Washington State, for example, small amounts of carbon dioxide are being injected into volcanic basalt. There the gas is expected to react with calcium and magnesium to form a carbonate rock—thus eliminating the risk of gas escaping.

The CO₂ that Statoil is injecting at Sleipner doesn’t come from burning; it’s an impurity in the natural gas the company pumps from the seabed. Before it can deliver gas to its customers, Statoil has to separate out the CO₂, and it used to just vent the stuff into the atmosphere. But in 1991 Norway instituted a carbon tax, which now stands at around $65 a metric ton. It costs Statoil only $17 a ton to reinject the CO₂ below the seafloor. So at Sleipner, carbon storage is much cheaper than carbon dumping, which is why Statoil has invested in the technology. Its natural gas operation remains very profitable.

At a coal-fired power plant the situation is different. The CO₂ is part of a complex swirl of stack gases, and the power company has no financial incentive to capture it. As the engineers at Mountaineer learned, capture is the most expensive part of any capture-and-storage project. At Mountaineer the CO₂ absorption system was the size of a ten-story apartment building and occupied 14 acres—and that was just to capture a tiny fraction of the plant’s carbon emissions. The absorbent had to be heated to release the CO₂, which then had to be highly compressed for storage. These energy-intensive steps create what engineers call a “parasitic load,” one that could eat up as much as 30 percent of the total energy output of a coal plant that was capturing all its carbon.

One way to reduce that costly loss is to gasify the coal before burning it. Gasification can make power generation more efficient and allows the carbon dioxide to be separated more easily and cheaply. A new power plant being built in Kemper County, Mississippi, which was designed with carbon capture in mind, will gasify its coal.

Existing plants, which are generally designed to burn pulverized coal, require a different approach. One idea is to burn the coal in pure oxygen instead of air. That produces a simpler flue gas from which it’s easier to pull the CO₂. At the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, West Virginia, researcher Geo Richards is working on an advanced version of this scheme.

“Come and see our new toy,” he says, hunching his shoulders against a bitter Appalachian winter day and walking briskly toward a large white warehouse. Inside, workers are assembling a five-story scaffold for an experiment in “chemical looping.” Making pure oxygen from air, Richards explains, is costly in itself—so his process uses a metal such as iron to grab oxygen out of the air and deliver it to the coal fire. In principle, chemical looping could radically cut the cost of capturing carbon.

Richards has dedicated more than 25 years of his career to making carbon capture more efficient, and for him the work is largely its own reward. “I’m one of those geeky people who just like seeing basic physics turned into technology,” he says. But after decades of watching politicians and the public tussle over whether climate change is even a problem, he does sometimes wonder if the solution he’s been working on will ever be put to practical use. His experimental carbon-capture system is a tiny fraction of the size that would be required at a real power plant. “In this business,” Richards says, “you have to be an optimist.”

In West Virginia these days, century-old coal mines are closing as American power plants convert to natural gas. With gas prices in the U.S. near record lows, coal can look like yesterday’s fuel, and investing in advanced coal technology can look misguided at best. The view from Yulin, China, is different.
Yulin sits on the eastern edge of Inner Mongolia’s Ordos Basin, 500 dusty miles inland from Beijing. Rust-orange sand dunes surround forests of new, unoccupied apartment buildings, spill over highway retaining walls, and send clouds of grit through the streets. Yulin and its three million residents are short on rain and shade, hot in summer and very cold in winter. But the region is blessed with mineral resources, including some of the country’s richest deposits of coal. “God is fair,” says Yulin deputy mayor Gao Zhongyin. From here coal looks like the fuel of progress.

The sandy plateaus around Yulin are punctuated with the tall smokestacks of coal power plants, and enormous coal-processing plants, with dormitories for live-in workforces, sprawl for miles across the desert. New coal plants, their grids of dirt roads decorated with optimistic red-bannered gateways, bustle with young men and women in coveralls. Coal provides about 80 percent of China’s electric power, but it isn’t just for making electricity. Since coal is such a plentiful domestic fuel, it’s also used for making dozens of industrial chemicals and liquid fuels, a role played by petroleum in most other countries. Here coal is a key ingredient in products ranging from plastic to rayon.

Coal has also made China first among nations in total carbon dioxide emissions, though the U.S. remains far ahead in emissions per capita. China is not retreating from coal, but it’s more than ever aware of the high costs. “In the past ten years,” says Deborah Seligsohn, an environmental policy researcher at the University of California, San Diego, with nearly two decades’ experience in China, “the environment has gone from not on the agenda to near the top of the agenda.” Thanks to public complaints about air quality, official awareness of the risks of climate change, and a desire for energy security and technological advantage, China has invested hundreds of billions of dollars in renewable energy. It’s now a top manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels; enormous solar farms are scattered among the smokestacks around Yulin. But the country is also pushing ultraefficient coal power and simpler, cheaper carbon capture.

These efforts are attracting both investment and immigrants from abroad. At state-owned Shenhua Group, the largest coal company in the world, its National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy was until recently headed by J. Michael Davis, an American who served as assistant U.S. secretary for conservation and renewable energy under the first President Bush and is a past president of the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association. Davis says he was drawn to China by the government’s “durable commitment” to improving air quality and reducing carbon dioxide emissions: “If you want to make the greatest impact on emissions, you go where the greatest source of those emissions happens to be.”

Will Latta, founder of the environmental engineering company LP Amina, is an American expat in Beijing who works closely with Chinese power utilities. “China is openly saying, Hey, coal is cheap, we have lots of it, and alternatives will take decades to scale up,” he says. “At the same time they realize it’s not environmentally sustainable. So they’re making large investments to clean it up.” In Tianjin, about 85 miles from Beijing, China’s first power plant designed from scratch to capture carbon is scheduled to open in 2016. Called GreenGen, it’s eventually supposed to capture 80 percent of its emissions.

Last fall, as world coal consumption and world carbon emissions were headed for new records, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its latest report. For the first time it estimated an emissions budget for the planet—the total amount of carbon we can release if we don’t want the temperature rise to exceed 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a level many scientists consider a threshold of serious harm. The count started in the 19th century, when the industrial revolution spread. The IPCC concluded that we’ve already emitted more than half our carbon budget. On our current path, we’ll emit the rest in less than 30 years.

Changing that course with carbon capture would take a massive effort. To capture and store just a tenth of the world’s current emissions would require pumping about the same volume of CO₂ underground as the volume of oil we’re now extracting. It would take a lot of pipelines and injection wells. But achieving the same result by replacing coal with zero-emission solar panels would require covering an area almost as big as New Jersey (nearly 8,000 square miles). The solutions are huge because the problem is—and we need them all.

“If we were talking about a problem that could be solved by a 5 or 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we wouldn’t be talking about carbon capture and storage,” says Edward Rubin of Carnegie Mellon University. “But what we’re talking about is reducing global emissions by roughly 80 percent in the next 30 or 40 years.” Carbon capture has the potential to deliver big emissions cuts quickly: Capturing the CO₂ from a single thousand-megawatt coal plant, for example, would be equivalent to 2.8 million people trading in pickups for Priuses.

The first American power plant designed to capture carbon is scheduled to open at the end of this year. The Kemper County coal-gasification plant in eastern Mississippi will capture more than half its CO₂ emissions and pipe them to nearby oil fields. The project, which is supported in part by a DOE grant, has been plagued with cost overruns and opposition from both environmentalists and government-spending hawks. But Mississippi Power, a division of Southern Company, has pledged to persist. Company leaders say the plant’s use of lignite, a low-grade coal that’s plentiful in Mississippi, along with a ready market for its CO₂, will help offset the heavy cost of pioneering new technology.

The technology won’t spread, however, until governments require it, either by imposing a price on carbon or by regulating emissions directly. “Regulation is what carbon capture needs to get going,” says James Dooley, a researcher at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. If the EPA delivers this year on President Obama’s promise to regulate carbon emissions from both existing and new power plants—and if those rules survive court challenges—then carbon capture will get that long-awaited boost.

China, meanwhile, has begun regional experiments with a more market-friendly approach—one that was pioneered in the U.S. In the 1990s the EPA used the Clean Air Act to impose a cap on total emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants, allocating tradable pollution permits to individual polluters. At the time, the power industry predicted disastrous economic consequences. Instead the scheme produced innovative, progressively cheaper technologies and significantly cleaner air. Rubin says that carbon-capture systems are at much the same stage that sulfur dioxide systems were in the 1980s. Once emissions limits create a market for them, their cost too could fall dramatically.

If that happens, coal still wouldn’t be clean—but it would be much cleaner than it is today. And the planet would be cooler than it will be if we keep burning coal the dirty old way."

End of culled article from the online edition of National Geographic magazine written by Michelle Nijhuis.
Michelle Nijhuis has won multiple awards for her writing about the environment. Robb Kendrick’s last piece, in April 2013, was on reviving extinct species.

Dr. Kwabena Donkor Must Reconsider Decision To Allow Coal-Fired Power Plants To Be Built In Ghana

The independent power producer,  Sunon Asogli Power Company, ought to shelve its plan to build a coal-fired power plant in Ghana. That positive decision must be taken by the company this year.

The cost to society, in terms of the massive air pollution caused by such power plants, which results in thousands of deaths from respiratory diseases annually, cannot be justified - when natural gas from Ghanaian oilfields could equally power Sunon Asogli's proposed power plant.

It is important that in its drive to increase its power-generating capacity Ghana takes note of current trends in China - where coal-fired power plants are being shut down in major population centres and moved to the provinces, as that nation takes steps to improve air-quality in major cities including the capital Beijing.

For the benefit of those amongst our ruling elites who are not yet aware of current trends in China, I am reproducing an article by Debra Killalea, entitled "Beijing to close coal-burning power stations to clean up air pollution". It was culled from the website.

One hopes that it will make Dr. Kwabena Donkor, Ghana's minister for power, temper his enthusiasm for coal-fired power plants. He must consider the importance, from a public health standpoint, of not sanctioning projects that will result in the emission of millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere: so as to safeguard the air-quality in towns and cities across Ghana.

(Incidentally, it must be noted that emissions from coal-fired power plants also contain sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (fly ash) and mercury.)

Instead of opting for coal-fired powered plants, let us focus on exploiting the gas deposits in the oilfields off our shores, to fire our nation's electricity generating plants.

Please read on:

"Beijing to close coal-burning power stations to clean up air pollution

A man wears a mask on Tiananmen Square in thick haze in Beijing.
A man wears a mask on Tiananmen Square in thick haze in Beijing. Source: AP

IT IS a country at war with air pollution, and now China has taken drastic action to clean up its capital city. 
China has notoriously shocking levels of pollution, with officials revealing air quality is below national standards in almost all its major cities.
The pollution has sparked growing health concerns about air quality with calls for the government to do something about it.
Today, Beijing announced it will stop using coal and its related products, and close coal-fired power plants and other coal facilities by 2020 in six of its capital districts.

A woman looks after she puts on her mask near the residential apartment buildings shroude
A woman looks after she puts on her mask near the residential apartment buildings shrouded by haze in Beijing. Source: AP
Wu Xiaoqing, a vice minister of environment protection, said only three out of the 74 cities monitored by the government met a new air quality standard, a figure which set off alarm bells over growing health concerns.
But the problem is at “hazardous” levels in the capital Beijing, with industry, energy use and transport largely to blame.
Coal makes up one-quarter of the city’s total energy consumption, according to Xinhua news agency
With more than 13 million cars sold in China last year, motor vehicles have emerged as th

With more than 13 million cars sold in China last year, motor vehicles have emerged as the chief culprit for the throat-choking air pollution in big cities especially Beijing. Source: AP
Last year Beijing reportedly experienced 189 days of pollution.
The US embassy pollution index in Beijing produces an Air Quality Index, which measures six pollutants.

According to the index, which follows US Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, an air quality level of more than 100 is “unhealthy for sensitive groups”.
More than 150 is “unhealthy”, and more than 300 is considered “hazardous”, the index reveals.

At one point last year Beijing’s smog was measured at more than 750.
A coal power station generates smoke in Beijing, China.
A coal power station generates smoke in Beijing, China. Source: AP
And while Beijing’s bold move may sound like bad news for Australia’s economy, our coal industry thinks exports to China will actually continue to grow.
The Minerals Council of Australia said Beijing was simply moving its coal-fired electricity generation, not banning or stopping it.
According to the council’s executive director of coal, Greg Evans, Beijing’s decision had been flagged for some time.
“It reflects Chinese policy to replace existing coal-fired plants with new, larger, more efficient coal-fired plants in provinces further west and transmit electricity from these plants to the coastal provinces via ultra-high-voltage transmission lines,” he said in a statement provided to
Air pollution is a massive concern for Beijing residents.
Air pollution is a massive concern for Beijing residents. Source: AFP
His comments were backed by global energy, metals and mining research and consultancy group Wood MacKenzie, which found this would have a limited impact on overall thermal coal demand.
“The transmission lines from the northwest will transmit coal-fired generation; hence, it just moves coal demand from the coast to the interior” it said in a press release last year.
According to the Minerals Council, modern coal-fired power stations have cut carbon emissions by 30 per cent and the industry supports 200,000 jobs and generates $40 billion in exports.

Beijing’s move is being seen as a positive one by the Clean Energy Council which said there was a global trend for countries to use and invest in greener forms of energy.
Clean Energy Council acting chief executive Kane Thornton said China was moving along with the strong global trend towards less carbon-intensive forms of energy.
“China is really leading the world in deploying renewable energy and installing record levels of wind and solar power,” he said.
“More than 140 countries now have a renewable energy target in place, which has resulted in one-fifth of the world’s power production now coming from renewable sources.”"

End of culled article from article by Debra Killalea.