Thursday, 10 September 2009


"Coal will remain the world's single most important source of electricity throughout the lifetimes of most of us here," I have just told The Coal Authority's annual conference in Manchester.

The purpose of my speech was to provide an update on the latest state of play in Europe regarding the development of carbon capture and storage technology. The International Energy Agency predicts a huge increase in coal use over the next 20 years, and without CCS we have no hope of curtailing the emission of global warming gases.

Within 3 months I expect the European Commission to announce that it will provide support funding for 7 CCS projects across Europe, including at least one in the UK.

Parkside Colliery near St Helens was the last deep mine being worked in the once huge Lancashire coalfield. It was closed in 1993 but when Michael Heseltine signalled its doom it was still profitable and had access to years of reserves.

Now, some 15 years later, 35pc of the UK's electricity still comes from coal, although most of it is imported. That begs two questions: if coal continues to be so important why did we close some of our best mines? Worse, why did we demolish the winding gear and fill in the shafts so they could never be reopened?

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