The case for coal

Issue 

The case for coal

By Frank Noakes

LONDON — Michael Heseltine, in announcing the axing of 31 pits said that the economic case for their closure was "unanswerable". Most experts disagree. On environmental grounds, also cited by Heseltine, his arguments don't wash either.

The government will be forced to borrow £7 billion to implement its closure program. This makes no allowance for the social costs.

The TUC has produced a document based on British Coal figures that show that the 10 pits earmarked for closure on January 23 made a £3.3 million profit last year, not a £31 million loss as claimed by Heseltine.

British coal is by far the cheapest in Europe and has supplies estimated to last for 1000 years. Nearly every pit is operating at a profit, with productivity boosted by 150% in recent years. The British nuclear industry is subsidised to the tune of £1.2 billion per year, while coal gets no subsidy.

If the planned closures are forced through, there will be only 19 pits remaining. Those closed will be flooded and will never be able to be reopened. Flooding will cause a disastrous run-off into nearby rivers, poisoning water systems.

In the US there are 38 clean coal power stations operating with low emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides and even of carbon dioxide.

All of Germany's coal power stations have been converted to clean coal technology. Much of this technology was developed in Britain but not applied here.