The EPA has released the latest of its annual reports on air quality. Its a technical report, and the media highlight different things. The Examiner reports that Irish air is best. The Times reports that some of Dublin’s air exceeds the NO2 limit. Both are true.
The Independent reports that smoky coal may soon be banned. That is speculation. The EPA report concludes that the ban on smoky coal has improved urban air quality; and argues that a nation-wide ban would be good for environment and health. The current ban is peculiar: It is a ban on selling smoky coal in cities — rather than on burning. The Solid Fuel Trade Group, who sell smoky coal, argue that a nationwide ban would not be effective, because people would smuggle coal from the North. As Dubliners do not smuggle large amounts of smoky coal from Meath into Dublin, chances are that cross-border smuggling would be limited too.
4 replies on “Air quality”
The current ban on sale rather than burning is interesting. I don’t have any figures to go on, but I would assume that gasoil/gas/elec heating is more cost-effective than a coal fire. Thus if one were to smuggle coal it would typically be for a sort of novelty gain, rather than for a monetary or efficiency gain.
This would raise a question about the rest of the country; how are they heating their homes now? Presumably very few rely on coal? If few people rely on coal and it’s more expensive than alternatives, surely smuggling is a non-issue?
In the latest CSO Household Budget Survey (2004/5), 14.7% of households reported that their principal means of winter space heating was open fires or solid fuel (central or non-central heating). Based on the much higher average expenditure on coal than turf, wood or anthracite, it seems likely that most of these households burned coal.
Of course, the share may have fallen since then. Household demand for coal in Ireland tends to have a negative income elasticity (see http://www.esri.ie/UserFiles/publications/20081110114951/WP262.pdf).
@ Sean Lyons
Thanks for the link. I didn’t expect so large a proportion. Is the income-elasticity for coal a ratchet effect? I.e. if someone made capital investment in gasoil central heating during the boom, they will hardly revert back to expensive coal burning if their incomes have dropped?
The idea of loading up the car with coal up north and driving back across the country seems a silly one. I suppose the SFTG have to come up with something though…
You’re probably right about the ratchet effect, but there is no data to prove it.
People will pick up the odd bag of coal if they happen to be up North and their boot is not full yet.