Barrie Frost: The Ferrybridge folly and why it is lunacy to ignore opportunity for clean-coal power

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ANY country would love to have over a century of coal reserves; any country would love to have the world’s best coal mining industry; any country would love to have developed clean-coal technology which is able to capture around 93 per cent of previously harmful emissions from its burning; any country would love to have conveniently located space to safely store centuries of these emissions.

Any country would be very fortunate to have all four of the above but, this would, I expect, be too much of a pipe­dream – to believe it was possible to have, in these very difficult and dangerous times, energy independence and for families to know their energy bills were in their country’s control.

But, what’s that, I hear? There is a country which has been blessed with such inheritance. The country is Britain, nay, Great Britain, but instead of celebrating such an amazing position, she has listened to the flawed logic from so­-called global warming and climate change experts and obeyed European Union directives, and has abandoned these superb assets.

Just what kind of fuel will we be able to use which is less polluting than the seven per cent emissions which our own clean-­coal technology cannot capture?

Britain has been spending £1bn converting Drax power station to burn wood pellets and she will import 15 million tonnes of these annually to keep Drax operational. Due to the volatile nature of wood pellets, which can spontaneously combust, another £65m will be spent on silos to house them safely. In addition some 50/60,000 tonnes of coal will be imported from Russia and Colombia, oh, and have I forgotten the thousands of foreign-made windmills?

I must be very dim to believe that all these farcical operations, all the environmental damage, all the millions of miles of shipment, produce less pollution than the seven per cent which clean-­coal technology could not capture, so why are we promoting this nightmare scenario?

If clean-­coal technology is cleaner, it must be introduced and when people whose expertise is outside the field of global warming write off coal, so easily, as some kind of evil substance which must never be used, I wonder if they will ever suffer the effects of global warming – as they are already living on another planet.

If coal-fired power stations are so evil, why is it felt necessary to distort reality? When a photograph of a coal­-fired power station is published, it usually makes it appear to be emitting horrendous clouds of black smoke, when all the cooling towers are producing is white fluffy clouds of water vapour. Have too many people got a financial interest in so­-called green energy that they feel such deception is acceptable?

Kellingley Colliery is to be closed in the very near future and the closure of Ferrybridge coal­-fired power station has just been announced. They cannot continue to operate economically due to carbon taxes, EU penalties etc. and Government subsidies under EU rules are not allowed. Why then are wind farms and solar energy installations allowed to receive heavy subsidies?

And, why is Britain importing 60,000 tonnes of coal each year when it has three billion tonnes of our own coal? Because it’s cheaper, that’s why. How can it be cheaper when it has to be transported thousands of miles before it reaches us? Are their coal miners receiving fair pay? Are the working conditions and safety standards the same as ours? I remember when clothing factories collapsed in Bangladesh almost two years ago with the awful loss of life, Britain’s news reporters seemed to delight in accusing our clothing industry of exploiting cheap labour and somehow contributing to the disaster. If there is a coal mining accident in Columbia, will we be similarly vilified for exploiting cheaper labour and poorer working conditions?

I find it appalling that Britain has not grasped her unbelievable good fortune and gone full speed to exploit clean­-coal technology with our own coal and so provided much-needed employment. Such an approach would not have any of the fears people have over fracking.

Yes, very, very belatedly, Drax power station has received EU funding for the White Rose clean-­coal experiment but as Britain has closed its coal mines where will the coal come from? You’ve guessed it – it will be imported.

We seem to have dismissed the environmental damage caused, in Canada alone, from our desire to obtain millions of tonnes of wood pellets. Huge areas of forest are being destroyed annually and even David Cameron’s former strategy adviser, Steve Hilton, has attacked climate change lobbyists, accusing them of being “the biggest threat to the environment today”.

Mining our own coal does not, in any way, damage the environment, but I am beginning to wonder if it is believed that common sense has an adverse effect – as it is no longer used.

Barrie Frost, from Filey, is a retired milkman and a regular contributor to The Yorkshire Post’s letters pages.