Throwing away our national inheritance over energy

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From: Barrie Frost, Watson’s Lane, Reighton, Filey.

IT is frequently said that fossil fuels must be left in the ground and as a consequence Britain has done just that and abandoned three billion tonnes of coal reserves at a time when energy supplies are in a critical shortage of supply. Why must these reserves be left in the ground?

Because coal is dirty and unwanted and burning it causes undue pollution which feeds global warming and this cannot be allowed to continue, or so it is claimed. Can anyone imagine any other country willingly forsaking such an abundance of energy when there is such a world shortage?

Well, Britain has decided that burning wood pellets is far cleaner, more efficient and obviously preferable, but is this correct? I remember when most houses used “open” fires that burning wood always produced far more soot than burning coal.

The boss of a leading American supplier of wood pellets says burning wood produces considerably more harmful emissions than coal and to add to this their import involves annual sea journeys of around 1.5 million miles.

The sales people who convinced our governments that it would be beneficial for Britain to spend £700m converting Drax Power Station in order that they could sell us 15 million tonnes of wood pellets each and every year must, surely, be in line for some kind of award for their contribution to American exports.

Britain has inherited a vast wealth of coal reserves, Britain is a world leader in clean-coal technology and with carbon capture and storage (CCS) is able to remove 95 per cent of CO2 emissions from the burning of coal, and can safely store three centuries of these emissions in her depleted oil fields under the North Sea.

We should be rejoicing at our amazing inheritance and at our technological achievements. We should be grateful that we have energy independence and do not have to rely on dubious foreign supplies.

But, what do we do? We choose to spend a fortune in buying and using an inferior product imported at huge cost, and to sack hundreds of thousands of coal miners and leave millions of pounds of mining equipment underground to rust away. We choose to continually delay (for over a decade), investment in CCS projects and to actually cancel very sound and beneficial schemes. Do we really believe abandoning such a natural wealth, installing thousands of windmills, and relying on 50,000 tonnes of imported coal is the best we can do?