Miliband’s coal decision is cynical and meaningless

Some will have heard today’s announcement by Ed Miliband that no new unabated coal-fired power will be generated. Sound like a breakthrough? Sadly not, as George Monbiot explains in his usual no-nonsense manner. As with all information in the media, it is dangerous to skim the headlines. Miliband’s statement says that energy companies must “demonstrate CCS on a substantial proportion of any new coal-fired power station.” The figures he has just proposed (400MW of gross capacity) suggest that only around one-quarter to one-fifth of total emissions from a new plant will be captured.

As its oil & gas reserves dwindle, a new lease of life is planned for the North Sea. As we reported previously, captured CO2 from Longannet would be destined for suitable rock formations in the North Sea. Miliband has refered to clusters of coal and gas plants with CCS which could “share the costs of building and operating pipelines to storage facilities, probably in old North Sea oil and gas fields”. Hmm, energy companies and sharing costs, I wonder how that might work? A report is due out late April or early May on the opportunities for CO2 storage in the North Sea which will no doubt reveal more, such as whether the storage of CO2 will be associated with enhanced oil recovery or not – kinda relevent for the climate debate, not to mention the economics of CCS.

Meanwhile, the government has decided on coal and is now trying to make it sound clean and green when, in reality, we will simply be pouring money into continued reliance on fossil fuels rather than accepting that we have to do everything possible to reduce our reliance on them. Much like we’re pouring money into a failing financial system, but that’s another story.

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