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Back clean coal, govt. urged


A joint TUC, employers, research organisations and coal companies report has issued an urgent call to the government to support clean coal technology as the future path for Britain's looming energy crisis. The move follows a request from power company E.ON to ministers to delay planning for the new Kingsnorth coal-fired clean coal power station until the government decides on standards for so-called CCS – carbon capture and storage technology.

At the same time the price of a barrel of oil has soared to over $110 with pump prices in Britain forecast to rise to £1.50p a litre (in 1999 the price of a barrel of oil was predicted to drop to $5 or less).

Scientists indicate that there are new technological advances in ways of handling the 60,000 tonnes of nuclear waste and guaranteeing over 60 per cent of Britain's electricity supply until at least 2060. Both the clean coal technology and nuclear options would counter the continued dash for imported gas. Only these two technologies – not gas – will lead to reductions in carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, there is deafening silence from the government – except on the future of British Energy, Britain's nuclear generator. The company is going up for auction and the government has ensured it is a two-horse race between EdF of France and RWE of Germany. British companies such as Centrica (ex-British Gas) have been blocked.

The £11 billion sell-off will place the whole future of nuclear generation and rebuild in foreign hands. This follows a similar move last year over decommissioning, which ensured that only US companies were allowed on the preferred bidders' lists.

The US Energy Solutions sees its ownership of the ten decommissioned Magnox sites as a counter to either a French or German nuclear industry. But within ten years one consortium will have devoured the other. Private monopoly in nuclear generation will be the norm.

Despite this, the government foresees no new nuclear generation – only replacement capacity: political cowardice in the face of the anti-industry "green" lobby. Indecision over new generation will result in shortages and power cuts; it will lead to rationing by price, which has already been introduced by the huge hikes in recent months. Surprise: utility companies are registering unprecedented profit returns.

Britain, once self-sufficient in energy, with significant energy reserves in gas, coal, oil and a thriving nuclear industry, now sees itself as a major importer of all energy resources while Brown whinges on about wind and tidal alternatives, but by themselves these can never provide for Britain's needs. Pretty appropriate for parliamentary windbags!