YORKSHIRE coal’s last embers may now be burning, but this should not preclude a full-scale retreat from a once mighty industry which used to employ tens of thousands of people and help sustain communities across this region.
For, contrary to the false impression created by the Government’s switch to renewable energy, Britain still burns vast amounts of coal each year. The only difference is that three-quarters of all supplies are now imported to these shores, even though vast reserves still exist in Yorkshire.
Even though the end of Yorkshire’s historic association with coal is moving closer after it emerged that Eggborough power station is likely to be fuelled by biomass in the future, coal will still be handed an important lifeline if the Government finally backs plans to press ahead with a major carbon capture plant at Drax.
If this happens, and the project was one of two that were shortlisted in George Osborne’s Budget, it will enable the remnants of Yorkshire’s coal industry – and other heavy industries – to conform to strict new environmental criteria.
Yet, even though the coal industry has been in decline since the Tories presided over a pit closure programme in the early 1990s, it would be remiss of the Government to neglect the opportunities that still exist.
With reports that the interminable snow and big freeze compromised gas supplies last week, it is even more important that Ministers ensure that Britain has enough fuel to keep the lights burning at an affordable price – and this means utilising a myriad of energy sources. After all, many of Yorkshire’s wind turbines do not function during becalmed weather – such as this relentless cold snap that has again highlighted shortcomings in energy policy.