In recent months, the topic of coal in Poland has not disappeared, especially in the face of the ongoing election campaign, activities of the green-peace organization, climate strike, controversial activities of Greta Thunberg and the nationwide fight against smog.
As usual, two extreme views collide and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
In the public debate, politicians and actors or young activists, mainly attacking the Polish coal industry. One of the representatives of this sector decided to break the silence and shed new light on the problem that Poland is now struggling with. Aleksander Bulge is a young entrepreneur, founder and president of the Pure Fuels Project company, which introduces ecological fuels as well as premium class coal to the European market.
“How do you assess the debate on the Polish energy sector, especially coal in the context of recent events.“
Aleksander Bulge: Unfortunately, I regret to say that the narrative in the current mainstream does not resemble honest debate in the least. It is hard for me to say whether mass criticism results solely from the lack of willingness to obtain at least basic knowledge about coal, whether it is a planned action and conscious manipulation of facts.
I closely observe the development of the heating market, economic statistics, and social moods. With great sadness I have to admit that coal has become colloquially speaking a “fashionable” topic. It is part of the ongoing election campaign and one of the areas on which politicians want to build their image. Some as defenders of Polish mines and miners’ jobs, others as defenders of clean air and healthy lungs of their countrymen. The ‘push’ in the media and on the Internet about coal in Poland has never before been so intense. On the one hand, it’s good that coal is talked about, it’s a pity that they are mainly empty slogans and extremely false data about its alleged harmfulness.
I am also involved in ecological activities. I finance ecological activities from the company’s revenues, I provide help in the form of good fuel in cooperation with social assistance centers to prevent burning garbage or low quality fuel, as a company we organize anti-smog campaigns, and personally I have long avoided plastic packaging, I don’t buy plastic bags, I limit meat to 2-3 meals a week, in summer I move around the city in a small scooter and in winter mainly by public transport. I really care about the environment, and I know that with such small activities I work in favor of the environment rather than walking in an anti-government pseudo-ecological protest.
“It is not just politicians who raise this topic. Environmental organizations, activists or young people involved in climate and environmental activities are increasingly encouraging the boycott of coal and seeking to eliminate it completely in Poland.“
Aleksander Bulge: In my opinion, coal acts as a scapegoat. It is a very convenient sacrifice in the context of the problems of polluted air and rapidly changing climate change. Coal now plays the ungrateful role of a “whipping boy.” I think that the focus was on coal to divert attention from the whole, really large, strong and very influential group, which is formed by global oil, gas, automotive and food companies. The coal industry consists of entrepreneurs operating on local markets. On a global scale, they do not form any strong consolidated organization. These are companies with a very diverse range and scale of income, but unfortunately dispersed.
Please note that in the automotive segment, there are powerful and well-organized groups such as Volkswagen Auto Group, BMW Group, Daimler AG and General Motors, which sell millions of cars with high-capacity engines every year. In the meat industry, McDonald’s or KFC, operating worldwide, are a huge recipient. The corporations that operate in hundreds of countries also in Poland, large-area hypermarkets, e.g. Carrefour, Auchan, Tesco, Kaufland or a very well-developed network of food discount stores such as Lidl or Biedronka, etc. have a very wide range of meats, and most products from store shelves (also fruit and vegetables) is packed in plastic packaging.
All these companies generate huge profits. They are large enough to have funds that will allow maintaining image security and a professionally created, positive image of a brand friendly to families, children and offering BIO products. This is possible thanks to efficient and well-paid lobbyists who are able to gain the favor of journalists, politicians and publicists. They effectively direct the attention of pro-ecological organizations to areas that are far away from the topics that could harm the company’s policy and advertising strategy.
Coal and everything related to it (mines, sellers, importers, furnace manufacturers, etc.) have become an easy target for attacks.
Environmental organizations are speaking louder and louder about coal, especially in the context of climate change or air pollution. Most of the statistics presented in the media throw all fossil fuels into one bag and indicate as the biggest cause of global warming. Meanwhile, what will be the increase in the average surface temperature of our planet depends primarily on the total greenhouse gas emissions.
“You mentioned the Automotive industry combining it in one line with meat. I would like to understand what you see in common in car production, animal husbandry and climate change?“
Aleksander Bulge: Environmental degradation and poor air quality with smoking chimneys of large factories and combined heat and power plants, as well as houses and tenement houses.
It should be very clearly emphasized that the greenhouse effect is not only associated with carbon dioxide. My opinion will probably be subject to strong criticism, which is why I would like to refer to a well-known pro-ecological activist. Bill McKibben who is the founder of over 300 organizations on the planet’s largest civil climate campaign. The Boston Globe described him as probably the most important ecologist, which is why I treat his opinions as credible. McKibben believes that animal husbandry has a significant negative impact on the environment, gas emissions and poor air quality. His research clearly showed that the scale of the adverse impact on the atmosphere, water and soil resulting from animal husbandry is: “a quantity greater than this,
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Report shows that greenhouse gas emissions from livestock represent up to 51% of their global emissions. Animal husbandry produces 37% of methane (this gas has a greenhouse potential over 20 times greater than CO2 in 100 years), nitrous oxide – 65% (this gas has 300 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide). As a curiosity, I will say that the production of 1kg of beef absorbs up to 14,000 liters of water, contributing significantly to a sharp decrease in drinking water resources. Obtaining one kilogram of beef is equivalent to driving 250 kilometers by car or burning a 100-watt bulb for 20 days without a break.
Promoting insignificant activities as an important element of acting for the benefit of our planet. Examples are campaigns recommending “shorter showers” or planting gardens with plants that do not require a lot of water, while ignoring such important information on the impact of environmental degradation and climate change. Around 1.5 billion cows are reportedly raised all over the world and over 6 million in Poland alone, compared to almost 13 million in Germany. Clearing forests for cattle grazing or growing crops for animal feed also contributes to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
I really hope that I will inspire people who, like me, want to really do something, look for the truth, reliable information (from as many independent sources and scientific studies as possible), and most importantly, not get pushed into the thoughtless role ” citizen, “who is either ignorant or feeds a crowd of uninformed hypocrites who can only shout slogans at not very effective public protest. In my opinion, they probably serve the organizers’ self-promotion more than they have any impact on increasing public awareness. I would like everyone who cares about the future of our children, grandchildren and the next generations who really care about the good of our homeland and the planet in general, take this topic seriously. That they would look for information and broaden their knowledge in this area. In addition, even if we stopped carbon dioxide production completely, it would remain at a similar level for 100 years, but by reducing methane and nitric oxide emissions the global temperature rise would fall radically, in a word, we would actually start fighting global warming. The conclusions are simple, if you really want to stop global warming then change your lifestyle and e.g. limit meat consumption.
“It is actually surprising, I will remember it the next time I eat a burger or steak, but it does not change the fact that burning coal produces dioxide, you yourself mentioned it.“
Aleksander Bulge: It is true, every human action has an impact on our planet, but we can reduce this impact, in many coal-fired power plants there are already solutions that significantly reduce harmful emissions, even in households we can install modern, low-emission furnaces for eco-pea coal or pellets, and even chimney filtration or afterburners that reduce emissions by up to 20 times. In addition, we can counteract global warming in a different, ecological way. For example, my company develops a plan and accumulates funds for planting trees for every ton of coal sold. As you know from nature lessons, plants absorb carbon dioxide, but unfortunately humanity has already cut half of the trees around the world, also for the needs of cattle breeding, which have so far absorbed the resulting dioxide.
“Well, in your opinion, coal is not the biggest cause of global warming, and what about smog, after all, in Warsaw and other cities, we have a huge problem with it every year. For this reason, e.g. in Krakow, coal and wood smoking were banned this year, will the time come for Warsaw?“
Aleksander Bulge: Well … the decision made by the Krakow authorities is in my opinion at least irrational, it is easier for local governments and other institutions to introduce total bans than to solve real problems. With coal and smog in Poland is just like fast food and obesity. Imagine, for example, that President Trzaskowski suggest closing shops and banning all meals, because we are struggling with the problem of obesity, instead of introducing regulations on fast food that really affect it, or support educational campaigns that will affect human eating habits. It would be completely absurd. Why, then, in terms of coal, such logic ceases to be absurd.
I hope that the Warsaw authorities will not decide to introduce a ban on trade and smoking in coal and firewood, I hope that instead they will take specific action in the fight against irresponsible or incorrect use of furnaces. I have been observing the Polish heating market since 2012, from the micro scale when I helped in running a family warehouse to the larger scale of today, when I run a large company, all these years, I was able to learn a lot about the market and specifications of coal and other solid fuels. In my opinion, the only reasonable method is to introduce stricter quality standards, and above all a ban on the import and trade of fuels that do not meet these standards.
First of all, garbage burners
Many households burn trash, waste, furniture in their furnaces … even plastics, tires, varnished wood … They are the biggest polluters and this procedure should be fought first. In my opinion the city guard should be better organized and equipped to combat this problem during the heating season, and social welfare should more often support the poorest households, among others when buying the right fuel.
Secondly, incorrect combustion.
In classic furnaces, the most popular method, burning from below, results in intense smoking, because coal does not burn properly, and its particles lift together with gases. Black smoke from a chimney is nothing other than unburned coal dust carried by gases and hot air. You can read more about it on the internet, just search for: top-down combustion.
Third, dishonest coal sellers
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of catching up to do in Poland, including Warsaw, some small sellers offer carbon-like products or very low quality coal, usually loose, very wet and contaminated. Personally, I recommend the purchase of bagged coal from proven producers who issue certificates on the coal quality. Although even seemingly large and professional companies, low calorie coal, high levels of total moisture and generally poor parameters are released on the market. Actually, we are one of the few companies that cares about the quality of their products, washing and drying coal before packing allows us to achieve the best parameters as well as more environmentally friendly values.
In addition, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that car traffic in Warsaw also contributes significantly to smog intensification, if the city wants to reduce it, let it introduce free public transport not only on days of extreme air pollution or reduce the price of ztm tickets. I think that residents will willingly switch to public transport if it is more attractive than moving by car.
Thank you for your time, would you like to add something else?
Aleksander Bulge: Yes, I would like to appeal to as many people as possible to maintain calmness, reason and a more careful approach to the information provided. Poland does not have to give up coal sharply and succumb to pressure, I believe that we can afford responsible decisions guided by the interests of citizens.
And I would like to invite all readers who really want to positively influence our environment to observe the profile of the pure planet project, because there will be alternative, objective materials on how to influence air quality or global warming instead of pseudo-ecological propaganda, as a socially responsible company we co-organize on the occasion of this project anti-smog campaign, as part of this campaign we will organize educational classes, publish videos and information on the proper use of fuel so as to harm the environment as little as possible, we will also write about other positive habits that will improve the environment in the world . I would like to invite everyone to read the blog.