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Only one or perhaps two people in the above picture have any idea why this country is in such a pickle and even they might have been sleeping while it was all going on.
On the face of things as they were, leaving coal in the ground wasn’t a good idea because Britain wanted to free itself as far as possible from Middle Eastern oil. We had North Sea gas and oil and coal was looking attractive because after Germany complained our coal burning power stations and heavy industry was causing acid rain and killing the Black Forest, our CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board) successfully developed technology to remove sulphur dioxide from the flu gases and buoyed up by their success they were eager to begin developing carbon capture technology. At the time global warming was already fairly common knowledge but it still made no sense leaving estimated reserves of 300 years of coal in the ground if carbon capture could be made to work – and in my opinion it still makes little sense when keeping warm in winter is subject to the whims of those now controlling the flow of gas to our shores and controlling the price…
It is little known that Britain at that time also had a budding hydrogen project underway, started by Prime Minister Harold Wilson and intended to help free Britain from oil.
Then Margaret Thatcher came to power and it took her precisely two weeks to close the hydrogen project and send everything to America. She was so manically against socialism she sold off our utilities but our power network was old and dated and no one would buy it at any price. She sweetened the deal by issuing cheap licenses for low cost gas fired power stations, therefore dismantling the CEGB and ending our hope of selling carbon capture technology to the rest of the world and in addition squandering our (at least) half a century of natural gas reserves generating energy best suited to anything except gas.
It must be considered the British public must be kept warm at an affordable price. If something causes the gas to stop flowing before other methods are ready, the only alternative is coal and now the distribution infrastructure has been dismantled it could not be replicated in a single winter – coal could not be supplied to every home in Britain and I believe this makes gas too important to squander in power generation and heavy industry and coal too important not to be held in reserve for emergencies.
In the real world Putin’s machinations probably wouldn’t deprive us of a third of our gas supply but he could easily make it unaffordable for at least 10 million of our population.
If that happens Britain might once again need to produce coal gas in order to meet the demand…
The main problem is in spite of energy saving measures, Britain’s appetite for energy will not stop rising and now there is a rush for electric vehicles on the horizon there is to be a massive spike in the upward curve of the graph.
Broadly I agree with you, especially where opencast mining is concerned – that is a terrible thing that must be avoided if possible, but I say coal should be left in the ground until it can be brought out and used cleanly and we should be open-minded about coal until Britain is safely self-sufficient in energy.