Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Scargill is (partly) right for once

Arthur Scargill (I didn't know he was still alive - did you?) is getting some coverage, with his support for clean-coal technology. Although there are obviously some technical problems with it, if these can be ironed out then using Britain's vast coal reserves would make a great deal of sense. The coal industry was destroyed to the chagrin of the political Left by the boneheaded attitudes of union leaders who used their power to try and bully governments into submission. It worked with Ted Heath: we all know what happened with Maggie. We have since gone through 20 years or so in which the Left have, rightly, said very little about the coal industry, because they recognised the environmental harm from burning fossil fuels. Now things have perhaps gone full circle and coal, provided that the technology works, can be presented as a 'green' fuel and, moreover, a fuel which Britain has abundant supplies of.

Anything that reduces our dependence on unstable regimes makes our country's energy supply more secure: anything that reduces our dependence on carbon-rich fuel imported across thousands of miles is good news for the environment.

I think he is wrong to oppose nuclear power, however. It avoids the carbon emissions of other types of power supply, and it can be delivered relatively quickly. It is clear that we have to act fast, otherwise within a few years Britain is going to have a major energy crisis. It is not an either/or situation: we need clean coal and nuclear and renewables. We must massively reduce, and eliminate where possible, our dependence on brutal and unstable regimes in Asia and the Middle East. The less we rely on their fuel, the less influence that bad guys such as Putin and Ahmadinejad will have, which is a good thing.

This is one reason why a windfall tax on energy companies would be unbelievably stupid. The fact is, we rely on these companies to invest in the future energy supplies of this country. If they are not allowed to make profits, they will have neither money nor any incentive to make such investment.

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