Sunday, February 19, 2017

Showdown Over Krabi Coal Power Plant

Protests without solutions only add to the problem. Solutions without the voice and support of media and activists, toil in obscurity. 

February 20, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - ATN) - The people of Thailand's southern province of Krabi attempting to prevent the construction of a coal power plant, have been let down by both the government and the professional protesters that have attached themselves to their cause.

Image: Coal is not the answer, but what is the answer? Greenpeace's campaigns fall short of answering that question. While they have done much to raise awareness, their organization's influence and resources would be better utilized in creating solutions, rather than endlessly enumerating problems. 
For the government's part, they have inherited a system racked by years of turmoil, inefficiency, corruption, and lack of vision. They've been left few choices for expanding much needed power production for Thailand's southern provinces beyond coal, oil, and gas.

The Ministry of Energy could have and should have done more to promote the expansion of alternative energy, the decentralization of energy production, and invested in education and development programs to expand the pool of human resources required for an alternative energy revolution in Thailand.

Amid the few programs the Ministry of Energy is assisting in, the impact has been very positive.

At the very least, the government could have and should have eliminated regulatory obstacles standing in the way of individuals and communities seeking to decentralize power production and switch over to alternative energy themselves. They can now, and should.

For the professional protesters who have attached themselves to the people of Krabi and their opposition to the new coal power plant, they have failed utterly to communicate the larger context the Krabi protest fits into, or present solutions and alternatives to both the public and policymakers.

The protests have dragged on for years and consumed massive amounts of energy and resources - years, energy, and resources that could have been used by these professional protesters to promote solutions and alternatives, to create models and demonstrations of these alternatives, and to build up pragmatic networks of alternative energy activists across the provinces the Krabi coal plant is meant to eventually power.

Ultimately, the expansion of power production must move forward. Power production is the key to economic development, something the people of Thailand's southern provinces need much more urgently than a single tourist attraction in Krabi.

A Lost Battle Does Not Necessarily Mean Losing the War 

In wars, the wise strategist knows when to cut their losses, retreat, and retrench. Investing everything into a single lost battle, or a Pyrrhic victory, only ensures that the war itself is ultimately lost.

For the people of Krabi and genuine alternative energy activists, their voice has already been heard and noted regarding current plans to construct a new coal plant. What actions are they taking to reduce the demand for coal power in the future in order to head off the construction of this or additional coal, oil, or gas plants?

There are already real activists all over Thailand building physical networks of both people and alternative energy.

Had the throngs of professional protesters, media outlets, and others who have invested years into complaining about the Krabi coal plant invested their time, energy, and resources instead into one or all of these networks - or even networks of their own - by now, they certainly would have more leverage in any discussion about the construction of dirty energy versus spending more public funds on alternative energy.

Should they cut their losses today, and begin investing in real, pragmatic solutions and alternatives, they may yet be able to head off the construction of the next plant.

But because professional protesters make their living complaining, and politically-motivate agitators like US-funded Prachatai seek to exploit the protests as yet another vector to destabilize Thai society, all of this time, energy, and these resources have been wasted and will continue to be wasted.

For the Thai government now, working with what was left to them after over a decade of mismanagement, corruption, and criminality, and to be confronted with activists and protesters keen on politically-motivated agendas rather than pragmatic solutions, they can be forgiven for not taking many of the arguments presented to them seriously.

They cannot be forgiven, however, for ignoring their own responsibilities to create and expand alternatives to unpopular, environmentally, and socially undesirable power sources - especially when real alternatives do exist.

Real Solutions Versus Constant Complaining 

At the end of the day, "democracy," or "people power," hinges not on people exerting power on others to do for them as they please, but rather on people themselves doing what they must, for themselves.

Solar power grids can and already are being constructed all over Thailand. Biogas is also likewise being used to replace cooking gas across rural communities. Around the world, blockchain microgrids are popping up allowing people to become their own personal "utility companies" buying and selling energy with their neighbors and community - excluding entirely traditional private and public utility providers as well as the regulations governing them.

People in Krabi themselves have done much work in becoming energy self-sufficient (Thai). To Greenpeace's credit, they have communicated this work - but would benefit the public far more by making this their primary focus,

Professional protesters have failed to fully communicate and capitalize on this work amid the debate in their pursuit of attention-seeking confrontational headlines and controversies instead.

The future of clean energy depends on the people and the government working together, but more so on the people taking on more responsibility for energy production locally as technology makes energy production a more localized process.

A Delay for Coal Power Means Time to Re-prioritize 

It may or may not be too late for Krabi. But the actions activists, locals, and various players in the media take now, may determine if another, unproductive, confrontational conflict erupts the next time power production must be expanded, or if genuine, pragmatic activism takes precedence, diminishing the demand for dirty energy altogether before the next conflict even arises.

If the coal power plant's construction is delayed, it would present to all parties involved an opportunity to re-prioritize - begin working on local networks, models and demonstrations for localized, clean power grids, the creation of provincial chapters throughout the south, collaboration with local universities on the construction of blockchain microgrids, and attempts to constructively collaborate with the Ministry of Energy regarding regulation and expanded support for alternative energy rather than remaining in confrontational opposition to the ministry.

Some are already doing this. More need to join. And the media, for its part, must resist the temptation to indulge in drama that sows division, and focus on using its influence and ability to inform the public to play a constructive role in solving this pressing issue.

For the rest of society, depending on policymakers, the media, and professional protesters to do for society what society must begin doing for itself is already demonstrably a lost cause. When any one of these special interest groups does something positive for the public, such efforts should certainly be capitalized on, however, depending entirely on these efforts is not acceptable. The public must become actively involved in solutions. In an age where technology is empowering us on the individual level, we no longer can individual exist as spectators. If we do not act to build the future we want to live in tomorrow, we have only ourselves to blame.