Why coal is still fuel for future

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ENERGY expert Tony Lodge’s cogent case for coal, set out on the opposite page in the wake of the new threat to the future of Kellingley Colliery, could not be clearer or more compelling.

ENERGY expert Tony Lodge’s cogent case for coal, set out on the opposite page in the wake of the new threat to the future of Kellingley Colliery, could not be clearer or more compelling.

After going underground at Hatfield to observe coal being extracted from the mighty Barnsley Seam, he came to this conclusion: “This is our most abundant energy resource... to abandon coal would be an almighty folly and fundamentally weaken energy security today and for future generations.”

They are words that must now be heeded by Ministers, the coal industry and the trade unions after UK Coal signalled its intention to close Kellingley Colliery – and also its sister Thoresby pit in Nottinghamshire. If it succeeds, the employee-owned Hatfield colliery will be Britain’s last surviving deep mine.

What is depressing, apart from the now bleak job prospects for Kellingley’s 700 miners and the economic impact on the surrounding area that already suffers from above-average unemployment, is that UK Coal’s proposals – submitted to the Government last month – only extend to “the managed closure of the two collieries, not survival”.

This is complacent – and unacceptable – at a time of so much tumult in the international energy sector. Only opened in the 1960s, Kellingley is still a relatively modern pit, it sits on vast coal resources and is located close to coal-hungry markets.

The key to its medium term survival and future development is keeping it open for the next 18 months so new management and workers can reach a strong agreement on how to run the pit and maximise its potential – the template used at Hatfield.

Furthermore, it would be a tragedy, and very risky from a financial perspective, if Yorkshire pioneered clean-coal – and then had to import expensive coal to power this technology.

David Cameron has said that the Government will do “everything we can”.

It is the Prime Minister’s stock response to any unforeseen policy challenge. He has not always honoured it, most notably over various incidents of flooding.

This time, the Tory leader must mean every word. And he could do worse than invite Mr Lodge to Downing Street to explain the lingering importance of coal to Britain. This is not a time for empty soundbites.

A lack of sincerity

Minister’s expenses contempt

CULTURE Secretary Maria Miller’s 32-second apology to the House of Commons for misdemeanours over her Parliamentary expenses is proof that there are still a small number of MPs who continue to take the public purse for granted.

Yes, Ms Miller was cleared of the central charge of deliberately submitting false claims, but she has been forced to repay £5,800 and her cavalier attitude has left her bereft of credibility.

Not only did Ms Miller breach the Ministers’ code of conduct because she was unhelpful to a Parliamentary inquiry, but her perfunctory apology to MPs lacked sincerity and taxpayers will be surprised that she held on to her job with such ease.

However, it does, once again, highlight the absurdities of a flawed system – paid for by taxpayers – that enabled Ms Miller to move her parents into an expenses-funded home, presumably so she could maximise her allowances. After all, many will question why the financial arrangements of the top Tory’s two homes became so complicated – her Basingstoke constituency enjoys very fast, and frequent, trains to and from London.

And it will prompt people here to question her ability to run a Whitehall department. Not only has the Department of Culture, Media and Sport been found wanting on a number of issues, but this is the Ministry that did so little to help Welcome to Yorkshire’s successful bid to host the Tour de France this summer.

Generation game

Will the Bank of Gran run dry?

THE Bank of Gran and Grandad is not a new institution. One of the most cherished in this country, it has always been there to help favourite grandchildren buy their first house or pay off some debts. But the increasing dependence on it is proof that today’s generation are not likely to be as wealthy as their parents and grandparents.

And, while grandparents draw great comfort from being able to help their dependents, the new findings by MetLife highlight the need for a new savings culture.

For, unless people of all ages recognise that the onus is now on them to make sufficient provision for their pension and retirement, the financial problems for their offspring will only intensify if the Bank of Gran and Grandad does run dry.