Kosovo Citizens Protest World Bank's Plan to Build Coal Plant

Mary Anne Hitt/via

It's a stark contrast: Polluting, greenhouse gas-spewing coal power is dying out across the U.S., thanks in part to new, better clean air standards imposed by the federal government.

But the federal government is also simultaneously backing an effort to install a brand new coal plant in Kosovo, one of Europe's poorest nations. Here's a dispatch from Nezir Sinani of the Kosovar Institute for Development Policy and Mary Ann Hitt, a campaign adviser with the Sierra Club:

local Kosovars are fed up with an increasingly corrupt process to push forward an unnecessary and polluting new coal-fired power plant. They are sick and tired of being steamrolled by the World Bank and U.S. government, which came to the country with a decade-old project in tow that they refuse to update to reflect 21st century realities.

This refusal is all the more damning with recent allegations of corruption being heaped upon this already controversial project. With official venues for communication broken, locals have decided they have no option but to resort to protest. On March 30, the people of Obiliq gathered with civil society organizations to protest the inherent corruption driving the environmental and health impacts their town will face if the plant is built.

The project has been extremely controversial in Kosovo and has caused ripples in Europe, yet few have heard of the project in the US. But it's a sufficiently egregious case—the World Bank foisting an old school, pollution-heavy coal plant, on a nation desirous of alternatives, that commentators are beginning to take note. Here's Daniel M. Kammen, a professor of energy at UC Berkeley, and an energy advisor to the Obama administration, writing an op-ed in the SF Chronicle:
The clean-versus-dirty debate is also playing out in Europe's poorest nation, Kosovo, which suffers hours of power outages each day, and which is well endowed with a particularly dirty form of brown coal, lignite. To some, this seems to mean that Kosovars are wedded to coal for decades to come. This is where the experience in California, and in the United States more broadly, is so important.

The U.S. government and the World Bank can aid Kosovo with funding and technical support that will permit them to develop a holistic approach to energy diversity and security. By contrast, investing in coal forces Kosovo (which aspires to join the European Union) to live with less job creation than a clean energy path would bring ... There are increasingly strident calls from civil society to found the young country's future on clean alternatives that will provide far more jobs and ensure energy access for all Kosovars.

Indeed. The World Bank wields an enormous influence on the energy future of Kosovo—to invest in a coal plant (and an extremely polluting one, at that) instead of cleaner sources of energy is to tether the developing nation to fossil fuels, to pass up an opportunity to foster a clean energy economy, and to inflict health woes upon its population. It also bears noting that those health woes will be expensive, will burden the nation's GDP, and will work to cancel out some of the alleged economic progress the coal plant will bring.

All of which could be avoided if the World Bank would listen to the protesting citizens, and invest in cleaner, more modern energy technologies.

Tags: Coal

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