Foggy Thinking on Smog

Coal gets blamed for all the bad things, even the Asian Smog.

What causes this smog?

Dust is a significant component. Winds whip up dust from dry land, roads, construction sites and the huge Gobi Desert, or an up-wind volcano explodes. No dust comes from a modern well-designed coal-fired power station.

Smogs may also contain soot and ash. These come from open-air fires all over Asia burning wood, cow dung, paper, cardboard, plastic, rubber tyres and other rubbish; from stoves and heaters using unwashed high sulphur coal or high-ash briquettes; from forest fires in Indonesia, cremations in India and yeontans in Korea. Some comes from ancient combustion engines, coal boilers and furnaces. None comes from a modern coal-fired power station.

Some smog contains compounds of sulphur, nitrogen or other chemical pollutants. These fumes are produced by open fires and vehicle exhausts, especially from badly-maintained vehicles and phut-phuts. They are not released by modern power stations.

Those blaming coal power for smog need to read the history of last century's deadly smogs in London and Pittsburgh. These were cleared by bans on open-fire heaters and cookers and the provision of "clean-coal-by-wire" - electricity produced in modern power stations with good emissions controls and burning washed high-quality coals.

Replacing dirty open fires with clean electricity will also work wonders in clearing up the Asian Smog.