Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Coal polluted water between myself and my opponent

The outgoing Labour MP for Blaydon today argues in the Journal for much more reliance in the UK on coal mining for our energy needs and champions "clean coal" technology to square the circle that wanting to sound both green and pro coal brings.

Politicians are often described as all the same with very little separating them in terms of opinions, so I welcome this prompt to say how I differ from Mr Anderson on one of his most passionately held positions.

Mr Anderson worked in the mining industry as an NUM official at the time of Thatchers government pulling of the rug from under coalfields communities, who from many years had been discouraged from diversifying their economies by the government. I agree that the government of the time behaved in a disgracefully cynical manner. Of course the miners union played into their hands in the way they conducted themselves but the way in which a virtual state of emergency was declared in coalfield areas and miners were persecuted by the state was wrong.

I suppose it is because I was 8 when my opponent was manning the braziers but I have no nostalgia for the coal industry. My grandparents lived in a coal mining community and I remember the heavy smog of coal dust from peoples fires and the high prevalence of Asthma. At the CAB I manage we see many ex miners with very terrible medical legacies of working underground.

I agree that this country needs a more diverse energy supply and needs to reduce its carbon footprint. But coal is very obviously a carbon intensive fuel. Clean coal technology is a yet unproven technology on the industrial scale needed. So why rush into using it when it will cost hundreds of millions of pounds to make it work, with no guarantees? The coal is not going anywhere!

I am passionate about how the government should promote energy efficiency. The cost of investing in clean coal could be spent to enable the government to lag every boiler and insulate every attic in the North East. This would reduce household bills massively and decrease our carbon footprint. It is proven technology and is the cheapest way to reduce carbon. It also helps reduce bills of the poorest communities, a welcome move in Labour increasingly unequal Britain.

Clarity on our MPs position comes at the same time as the company who applied for a massive open cast proposal at SKons Park in the constituency have agreed to pay substantial costs. If coal is to play a larger part, it is obvious that relatively cheap methods of extraction such as open casting will be needed. The local Labour parties objection to the development of open casting has a hollow ring when its married to a desire to see more coal extraction.

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