The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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The Marsaxlokk power station and the end of science

Simon Mercieca Monday, 9 January 2017, 08:48 Last update: about 7 years ago

Perhaps, one of the major stories that hit the media before the end of 2016 was the way ERA Board members voted in favour of the new gas-run power station. With the exception of one member, all the board members approved the project.

As a resident in Marsaxlokk, I found strange the argument put forward by one of the board members to justify the way he voted on this issue. Furthermore, I think it is unfair that only he was attacked. I am sure that other members voted on the same principle. They too would admit that they voted in favour because the new gas power station is more environmentally friendly than the previous one. This means that Marsaxlokk is going to have better air.

The irony of it all is that the academics on the ERA board come from the world of science. This is the same world that the modern academic humanists presented as the realm of truth. Therefore, since the scientists have spoken out, we common mortals should now shut up. Truth has spoken on this issue!

Nevertheless, as this story unfolds, science too can be a source of deceit. In history, truth is an absolute value. Today like all academic subjects, science has become victim of relativism. The scientific truth is no longer absolute but can change according to the exigencies of the moment.

Why am I stating this? Simple. The first fat lie is that the gas power station is going to offer cleaner energy than the present heavy fuel oil plant. This is not true.  Energy emitting from the heavy fuel oil power station was clean. Filters had been installed to guarantee clean air at Marsaxlokk. In fact, the heavy fuel oil power station did not even infringe EU regulations concerning the environment.  If the heavy fuel oil power station was a cancer factory, then Brussels should be blamed for not flagging this. The infringement of environmental rules in Europe is accompanied by heavy fines. But Malta has not been fined for using a heavy fuel oil power station because it was not polluting the air.

If one is to believe these scientific experts who keep telling us that this power station is clean and safe, as our government is also declaring, then why has this government continued with the policy of the previous administration in considering the “South” as Malta’s dumping ground for heavy industry? This began in Dom Mintoff’s time. Mintoff’s intentions were noble. He channelled most of the industries onto this zone to provide jobs for the south, which was one of Malta’s most densely populated areas. In return, industry ruined the environment in the South. The South was the most beautiful area on the island.

Unfortunately, the Nationalist administration did not change course after 1987. The PN continued to consider the south as the place for heavy industry and the choice of Marsaxlokk for a new power station proves my point.  In the process, the South continued to be considered a second-class area. In 2013, many citizens of the South hoped for a change. Thanks to the world of science, these citizens are now realizing that they are still being considered as lesser mortals.

Given that, through their vote, our University academics have made their views public, Maltese citizens should put their mind at rest that this gas power station is not a hazard to the environment.  It follows, therefore, that there was no need for it to be built at Marsaxlokk. It could have been built in any other part of Malta, including one of our Northern beaches. Now the tanker too is safe and clean.  And if this were to happen, the residents of the North should be grateful to the Labour government for having given then a clean plant and to our experts for approving such a plant in one of their beaches. The sandy beaches of Marsaxlokk are not inferior to those of the Northern areas.

But the only reason why these experts have felt safe to approve this power station at Marsaxlokk is due to the fact that this area is a strong “Lejber” district. As faithful followers of Lejber, the residents will not rebel. Different would have been the situation had this tanker been proposed by a Nationalist administration. No doubt, all hell would have broken loose and the scientific argument would have been different. Environmentalists kick up a fuss in order to safeguard a townhouse but then they have no qualms of conscience when it is a matter of safeguarding the environment of a quaint picturesque bay.

The losers in all this are the environmentalists. The people of the South would be stupid if they were to stick out their neck on environmental issues, when their representative has no problem with the permanent mooring of a tanker in their midst.

But this tanker is not only an eyesore. It is also a health hazard. This tanker is a source of pollution. Did our experts consider this point in their evaluation? I doubt it. Let’s start from the first premise. These types of tankers are meant for the open seas and not as a permanent fixture in a picturesque bay.

Then, there are other questions, which no one has dared ask. Is it true that this tanker runs on fossil fuel? Most probably its engines operate on heavy fuel oil or diesel. How are the residents of Marsaxlokk going to be sure that the engines of this tanker are not being run on this type of fuel? Did any one of our experts raise the matter?

I have witnessed smoke emitting from the tanker especially at night-time. Is this not a health threat to the residents of Marsaxlokk? One needs to remember that the chimney of the tanker is closer to land than the chimney of the power station. The chimney of the tanker is at a lower height than the chimney of the power station.  Did any of our experts verify whether the chimney of the tanker has any filters? The incongruity of it all lies in the fact that the cancer factory had filters but now the residents have a tanker in their midst without knowing if the tanker has filters or not.

Next comes the issue of sound pollution. One only needs to visit Marsaxlokk at night and listen to the sound of the engines of the tanker running. The sound can be heard from the Tas-Silg area.  Does this not amount to sound pollution?

Following this ERA vote, the situation will not be the same for the environmental lobbyists. They are the big losers together with the Labour voters at Marsaxlokk who will experience a decrease in their property prices. This will be redeemed by turning Marsaxlokk into yet another Bugibba. The beautiful terraced houses built in Labour times will start coming down to make place for blocks of flats. This is the price that Masaxlokk will be paying for this irresponsible decision of having this eyesore in the middle of the harbour.

If there is a victor in all this, this is Joseph Muscat. He has defeated the environmentalists and has turned them into a bunch of jelly babies. They are no longer credible. On my part, I cannot accept that they speak on my behalf on environmental matters, irrespective of the issue. In short, the environmental lobby, like science, is now a victim of relativism. This is why it has become irrelevant.

This ERA vote goes to show that scientists too can express their first allegiance to politics rather than to their chosen profession.  Science is not an absolute subject. Truth is absolute. Science is too relative a subject and scientists can change their argument according to the needs of a particular political situation.

 

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