The news that Michael Gove has finally approved a new coal mine in Cumbria is still sinking in. The whole sorry saga has been dragging on for years, with the can being kicked down the road for far too long, seemingly because politicians lacked the guts to make a decision that they knew was right, but which they also knew would bring howls of protest down on their heads. Those howls of protest come from far and wide, just as did the opponents of the mine whenever there seemed to be any chance at all that it might get the go-ahead.

BBC

Pride of place has to go to the British Broadcasting Corporation. The report on the decision is reasonably balanced, in my opinion, and I give the BBC credit for that. But only for that. For years it has felt as though the BBC was running a determined campaign to ensure that the coal mine never opened (of course, it might not, given the ongoing campaign against the positive decision). The BBC’s opposition really became obvious in 2021 in the run-up to COP 26 in Glasgow. Here’s a flavour of the BBC headlines (I provide embedded links to facilitate reading the articles, should you be so minded) last year, all posts under the headlines being either unattributed or written by the now departed (from the BBC) Roger Harrabin:

8th January 2021: Greta Thunberg criticises Whitehaven coal mine plan

14th January 2021: Government defends Cumbria coal mine green light

The tone of the entire article struck me as hostile:

Environmentalists have reacted with astonishment and disbelief, saying the carbon from burning coal is clearly a global concern.

Extensive quotes were offered up from representatives of Greenpeace and CPRE (both hostile). No quotes were offered (nor indeed any arguments in favour supplied) from supporters of the mine.

8th February 2021: Cumbria coal mine: Climate tsar urged to quit over ‘reckless’ plan

By way of explanation:

The UK’s climate tsar, Alok Sharma, has been urged to resign unless the prime minister scraps plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

1st March 2021: Cumbria coal mine plan ‘damaging PM’s reputation’

12th March 2021: Cumbria coal mine: Public inquiry after government U-turn

“Analysis” (by Roger) of the decision quoted “local Conservatives” and “supporters of the mine” (unnamed) as being the two groups in favour, while quoting extensively from opponents Tim Farron, Ed Miliband, Professor Rebecca Willis and Professor Mike Berners-Lee from Lancaster University, Kohn Kerry, “[o]ne of the world’s leading climate scientists, the American James Hansen”, “the government’s climate advisers, along with a crowd of green groups”, as well as noting that “yesterday Alok Sharma was again rebuked by MPs over the plan”. Eleven paragraphs were devoted to the opponents of the mine, while two were devoted to its supporters. Nicely balanced, then!

And for good measure, we had this (unattributed) piece from 29th June 2022: Cumbria coal mine proposal is indefensible, says UK climate chief. Lord Deben’s opposition to the mine was quoted extensively, with a quote from Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth thrown in for good measure (no quotes or arguments cited from anyone in favour of the mine).

Since the reasonably balanced article reporting the decision earlier this week, the BBC has also offered up:

Whitehaven coal mine: An almighty row only just beginning. This time the author is the balanced Chris Mason, and now we find things like this:

Until then, 40% of the coal needed to make steel in the UK, metallurgical coal, the stuff this new mine will dig up, came from, you guessed it: Russia.

Since then, alternative suppliers have been found, but nonetheless the issue of energy security is a salient one…

…The government is arguing their decision is in keeping with their emissions obligations because the alternative would be importing the coal, and alternatives to using coal are a long way off.

And plenty of people in west Cumbria are delighted.

A county with a proud mining heritage sees a proud mining future too.

To my mind, there is more balance in that single article than in any that appeared last year on the BBC website.

The Guardian

Of course, the Guardian. Needless to say the Guardian has long campaigned against the coal mine. This week, since the decision broke, it has given us:

Cumbria coalmine protests planned as local opposition grows

Admittedly it quotes a couple of people who might be described as “local”, but this is stretching “local” a bit:

Carole Wood, the chair of South Lakes Action on Climate Change, said the group was crowdfunding to explore a potential legal challenge.

It is noticeable that a lot of the froth in Cumbria comes from Tim Farron’s constituency. Speaking of whom, the Guardian also offers us this:

New Cumbria coalmine ‘like opening a Betamax factory’, says Tim Farron

Mr Farron is duly quoted:

The only argument at all for this mine that I think has any merit is it will create jobs. The jobs will be created for a very short period of time and they will go if the business case for the mine is as weak as it obviously is.”

The Liberal Democrat MP said the Cumbrian coast was a far more sensible place to invest in “green, renewable energy”.

He added: “This is not only foolish in fact, it’s also foolish politically, as it makes us a laughing stock when it comes to us trying to talk to other countries like China about how they reduce their carbon emissions.”

Well, I suppose we should be grateful that he recognises that bringing jobs to a depressed area with high unemployment is a good thing. Many of the opponents in the main give me the impression that they don’t care about jobs. The problem, of course, with arguing that the better alternative is “green” jobs, is that they never seem to materialise.

As for China and laughing stocks, I think you’re the one having a laugh, Tim. As Brendan O’Neill pointed out in his excellent article in Spiked today, China produces 13 million tonnes of coal a day whereas the new Cumbrian coal mine is projected to produce 2.8 million tonnes of coal a year. Brendan links to an article in Mining [Dot] Com, dated 24th October 2022, which provides some statistics that really ought to give opponents of the mine reason to think again:

China’s September coal production jumped 12.3% from a year earlier to 390 million tonnes, official data showed on Monday, reaching record average daily levels as mines resumed operation after heavy rainfall in the summer months.

The average daily output was equivalent to 13 million tonnes, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, which compares to 11.95 million tonnes per day in August and 11.14 million tonnes per day a year earlier.

But back to the Guardian:

Could Cumbria coalmine be stopped despite government green light?

MPs

Look no further than the last Guardian article I cited. Some wondrous quotes from a couple of politicians on different sides of the debate, but in agreement about this (even if they did express their views with differing levels of stridency):

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, vowed to keep fighting: “This government has backed a climate-busting, backward-looking, business-wrecking, stranded asset coalmine. This mine is a climate crime against humanity – and such a reckless desire to dig up our dirty fossil fuel past will be challenged every step of the way.”

Philip Dunne, the Tory MP who is chair of the environmental audit committee in parliament, said: “Coal is the most polluting energy source, and is not consistent with the government’s net zero ambitions. It is not clear cut to suggest that having a coalmine producing coking coal for steelmaking on our doorstep will reduce steelmakers’ demand for imported coal. On the contrary, when our committee heard from steelmakers earlier this year, they argued that they have survived long enough without UK domestic coking coal and that any purchase of coking coal would be a commercial decision.”

Tim Farron we have already heard from, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. How about the Labour Party? Here’s another Guardian (sub) headline from this week: Ed Miliband vows party will seek to prevent ‘climate-destroying’ plan and if elected would deliver green jobs. Fuller quote:

Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, said: “A Labour government will leave no stone unturned in seeking to prevent the opening of this climate-destroying coalmine, and instead ensure we deliver the green jobs that people in Cumbria deserve.”

Of course, it’s not a climate-destroying coal mine. The emissions associated with it are utterly insignificant compared to emissions from coal produced in China, India, Indonesia, Russia and scores of other places (and that’s assuming one signs up to the quasi-religious cult that believes in climate destruction).

What does beggar belief is that a Labour shadow minister – a senior Labour politician, would be so keen to destroy new jobs in an area of high unemployment and deprivation during a cost-of-living crisis. As a former Labour Party activist, I find that very hard to take, but it reminds me why my activism on behalf of the Labour Party is in the past and not current. I recall the words of Neil Kinnock to a Labour Party conference in 1985:

I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, outdated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council – hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers.

I see parallels a-plenty.

Conclusion

I can do no better than end with a quote from the Spiked article by Brendan O’Neill mentioned above:

The overwrought apocalypticism of the likes of Ms Lucas… demonises in the most hysterical fashion perfectly normal and in fact good endeavours. The Cumbria coalmine will create hundreds of well-paid jobs. It will increase the independence and dignity of working-class families in Cumbria. It will help to reduce the UK’s reliance on coal imports. These are positives. They should be celebrated. Of course to Ms Lucas and other middle-class greens, that local communities in Cumbria have welcomed the coalmine only shows that they’re ‘nostalgic’ for the past and that they’ve been ‘seduced’ by a plan that will actually make them ‘suffer’. Patronising much? The Cumbrian working classes who can’t wait to start mining are a paragon of reason in comparison with the Guardianistas madly sobbing about coal being a crime against humanity.

18 Comments

  1. Hot off the press today from the Guardian:

    “John Kerry examining likely impact of new UK coalmine
    US climate envoy says he will publicly criticise UK’s approval of Cumbrian mine if it adds to emissions”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/10/john-kerry-examining-likely-impact-of-new-uk-coalmine

    John Kerry, the US climate official, has said he is closely examining the UK government’s approval of a new coalmine, over concerns that it will raise greenhouse gas emissions and send the wrong signal to developing countries.

    Kerry, Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, said he was taking a close interest in the mine, the first to get the go-ahead in the UK for 30 years, and that he would speak out publicly against the approval if it did not meet strict criteria.

    According to statista:

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/949260/number-active-coal-mines-united-states/

    by 2021 there were still 970 active coal mines in the USA. I suggest, Mr Kerry, that you mind your own business, and go back to the country whose politics is controlled by your administration, and see what economic harm you can do there rather than seeking to deny jobs here to people in an a depressed area of high unemployment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And while you’re at it, Mr Kerry, read this:

    “The US is a rogue state leading the world towards ecological collapse
    George Monbiot”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/dec/09/us-world-climate-collapse-nations

    here are two extraordinary facts about the convention on biological diversity, whose members are meeting in Montreal now to discuss the global ecological crisis. The first is that, of the world’s 198 states, 196 are party to it. The second is the identity of those that aren’t. Take a guess. North Korea? Russia? Wrong. Both ratified the convention years ago. One is the Holy See (the Vatican). The other is the United States of America.

    This is one of several major international treaties the US has refused to ratify.

    As usual, IMO George gets more than a little carried away, but he does have a point.

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  3. Need one go further than remind people of Caroline Lucas’s opinion: the Cumbrian coal mine will be “climate busting”. Ask her about coal mines in other countries: Indonesia approx. 250; India 285; USA 970; China 1,110. The UK has 3, and is thinking of opening another one. Not sure Cumbria will do much “busting”.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to hear that sort of point put to Ms Lucas on the BBC? Not a chance…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Indeed Dr Pollock. One might add Germany to that list (and many others).

    I find myself asking on a daily basis why UK politicians hate the British people so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It does amaze me when activists say that the approval of the Cumbrian mine gives the wrong message to China. Are we really so full of self-importance that we think China gives a rat’s arse what we do? Are we that naive that we think China would have changed its ways if we had rejected the proposal? Delusion, more than anything, seems the order of the day.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The argument is very simple. Very easy to confront the dreams about it.
    The world needs steel. Steelmaking needs coal. Now do you want the coal to come from our own country where it employs many people in well-paying jobs, or should the coal come from a country with lower environmental controls so you can salve your pollyanna feelings?
    If they won’t answer or start talking of fantasy manufacturing, hit them with their hypocrisy of needing steel and carbon fuels for their cosseted lifestyles.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. John, the hubris is immense, isn’t it?

    The people campaigning for the UK not to have coal mines, not to frack for gas, not to have ICE cars, not to have gas central heating, not to eat meat, etc etc, all really seem to believe that we in the UK can make a difference to the global climate (in some cases, I even fear that they believe we can make a difference to the UK climate if not to the global climate). They all also seem to believe (or want to believe) that the rest of the world cares about what we do, and will adjust its behaviour accordingly.

    It’s fair enough for them to believe in climate apocalypse, since they’re spoon-fed a diet of little else, but the terrifying thing is the failure to accept that the policy response needs to be logical and impactful, and that we in the UK can’t affect climate change if the rest of the world doesn’t play ball (and it isn’t, and there’s no sign that it’s ever going to do so).

    Wearing my old lefty hat, the bit that particularly infuriates me is that the people campaigning to keep unemployed people poor and out of work tend to be rather comfortably off themselves. How dare they!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Chris Morris,

    I agree, of course. The problem is that steelmakers in the UK have been heard to mutter things to the effect that they don’t need Cumbrian coal. And they don’t, inasmuch as they can get the coal they need from abroad. But they do need coal, and will continue to do so for many years to come. No coal, no steel. No steel, no renewables industry.

    Presumably the people behind the proposed coal mine believe they can mine the coal economically and sell it cheaply enough for steelmakers to buy it from them and for them to make a reasonable profit on it. If not, that’s their lookout. I struggle when politicians claim that it doesn’t make economic sense – in the globalist capitalist world that most of the UK’s politicians are signed up to, that’s not the call of politicians, it’s the call of the businessmen and women who are promoting the business (so long, of course, that they don’t demand financial help from the taxpayer).

    Speaking of which, if we shouldn’t support or allow uneconomic businesses, as many politicians contend in the context of the proposed coal mine, why are we still subsidising renewables?

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  9. “New Cumbria coalmine: backlash grows as steel industry plays down demand
    ‘Red wall credentials’ suspected at Westminster as real reason for approval by Michael Gove”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/11/new-cumbria-coalmine-backlash-grows-as-steel-industry-plays-down-demand

    On an on it goes. If the mine had been allowed to proceed when first mooted, rather than being delayed time after time, its coal might actually be in use by now. The plan on the part of opponents seems to be to try to keep kicking the opening date for the mine down the road in the hope that their much-vaunted “green” steel plans become a reality. But that’s an issue for the developers of the mine, not for its opponents. The opposition is nakedly political.

    Like

  10. And they’re not done yet – talk about obsession:

    “The Observer view on the indefensible decision to open a deep coalmine in a climate crisis”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/dec/11/the-observer-view-on-indefensible-decision-to-open-a-deep-coalmine-in-a-climate-crisis

    The decision to approve a new £165m coalmine in Cumbria reveals an unpleasant truth about the government. It demonstrates, with brutal clarity, that No 10 has no credible green agenda and does not understand or care about the climatic peril our world is facing.

    Ministers are clearly focused only on short-term, tactical gain – in this case, to give a brief boost to local employment – at the expense of forming a strategy for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and maintaining world leadership in the battle to limit the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on our climate.

    A “brief” boost to local employment. How shocking, in a deprived area with high levels of unemployment!

    And they insist it will be “brief”:

    British steelmakers will be legally required – as part of our climate obligations – to move to low-carbon production in the next 13 years. When that happens it will no longer be able to use coking coal. Output from Woodhouse colliery therefore has no long-term future in Britain.

    And yet the final paragraph in the article opens with this:

    Scientists estimate that the colliery will lead to the release of 250m tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years.

    Well what’s it to be? 13 years or less, and “these jobs are going to be short lived” or 30 years or more? Make your minds up. If you’re going to oppose it, at least try to be consistent in your arguments!

    And even if it should be 250 million tonnes of emissions over 30 years, it might be helpful if you put that into some sort of context – it represents, on current numbers (which will probably grow between now and at least 2030), around 8 months of emissions from Chinese coal mines (never mind the ones in India, Indonesia, Russia, USA etc).

    Also, given that the mine is projected to release 2.8 million tonnes a year, someone needs a maths lesson – 30 x 2.8 = 84 million, or at least it did when I went to school. I’m not surprised that no link is offered to the claim of 250 million tonnes of emissions over 30 years.

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  11. When did Lucas last call out the ‘crimes against humanity’ of the steel manufacture needed for wind turbines, using the same coking coal she moans about now?
    ‘- – –
    Re the 13 or 30 years comment, could that be something to do with future carbon capture plans?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Well, that didn’t take too long:

    Friends of the Earth, enemies of the working class…

    “Whitehaven coal mine: Friends of the Earth to launch legal fight”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-64165419

    …Niall Toru, lawyer at Friends of the Earth, said: “With the world facing a climate emergency, we shouldn’t have to take this challenge to court.

    “Any sensible government should be choosing to leave coal in the ground and accelerating the transition to a safe, clean and sustainable future.”

    Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day which is representing the group, added: “A critical issue raised by Friends of the Earth during the inquiry was the signal that granting a new coal mine in the middle of a climate emergency would send to the rest of the world.

    “Friends of the Earth believes that this was never properly grappled with by either the Inspector or the Secretary of State. We hope that the court will agree that this argument justifies a full hearing.”…

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  13. Mark –
    ““A critical issue raised by Friends of the Earth during the inquiry was the signal that granting a new coal mine in the middle of a climate emergency would send to the rest of the world.”

    they must have missed/ignorant off your link – https://www.miningreview.com/coal/global-coal-consumption-rises-to-all-time-high-amidst-energy-crisis/

    partial quote from above link –
    “Keisuke Sadamori, IEA Director of Energy Markets and Security says – ….Coal demand is stubborn and will likely reach an all-time high this year, pushing up global emissions. At the same time, there are many signs that today’s crisis is accelerating the deployment of renewables, energy efficiency and heat pumps – and this will moderate coal demand in the coming years. Government policies will be key to ensuring a secure and sustainable path forward.”

    dream on Keisuke.

    Like

  14. Old news, but still worth a read:

    “Lützerath: German coal mine stand off amid Ukraine war energy crunch”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-64187212

    Compare Whitehaven. No villages will be destroyed by that coal mine. I wonder why John Kerry thought it appropriate to intervene regarding the Whitehaven mine but hasn’t (so far as I am aware) made any comments about this. Remember:

    The land around and under Lützerath is rich in lignite – the dirtiest form of coal. The mine, a bleak and dull brown man-made canyon which stretches over 35 square kilometres, yields 25 million tonnes of the stuff every year.

    Like

  15. “New Cumbria coalmine likely to break UK’s climate pledge, analysis says
    Whitehaven colliery will release about 17,500 tonnes of methane every year, estimates thinktank”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/17/cumbria-coalmine-uk-climate-goals-methane-emissions

    The new coalmine in Cumbria is likely to prevent the UK from meeting its internationally agreed commitment to reduce emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, analysis has suggested.

    The Whitehaven colliery, controversially approved by ministers shortly before Christmas, will release about 17,500 tonnes of methane every year, according to estimates from the Green Alliance thinktank.

    That is about the same as 120,000 cattle, or about half the beef herd in Cumbria at present, and could put the UK’s methane-cutting targets out of reach.

    The analysis comes as campaigners also raise concerns about the filing of more than 100 oil and gas drilling licence applications.

    The government had received 115 requests from oil and gas companies for new licences, which campaigners said would endanger the UK’s and global climate targets and send the wrong signal internationally.

    Philip Evans, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “These new licences will make Britain’s homes and businesses more reliant on the volatile gas market, making further energy crises more likely and doing nothing to reduce bills.

    “Then there’s the fact that the world has agreed to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible to maximise our chances of getting climate change under control, and the government’s failure to consider the full carbon cost of new drilling makes the entire process unlawful.”

    Whatever “the world has agreed”, it isn’t binding and it isn’t being implemented by most countries around the world (including the ones that matter, as putting out most and/or growing emissions). Would comfortable middle class people please stop campaigning against working class jobs in an a deprived area of high unemployment, especially as the mine going ahead will make no difference to the world’s climate, whatever campaigners claim.

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  16. “The Whitehaven colliery, controversially approved by ministers shortly before Christmas, will release about 17,500 tonnes of methane every year, according to estimates from the Green Alliance thinktank.

    That is about the same as 120,000 cattle, or about half the beef herd in Cumbria at present, and could put the UK’s methane-cutting targets out of reach.”

    this has to be the most stupid comment.

    will Attenborough give an methane estimate for Africa I wonder!!!

    Like

  17. dfhunter,

    You only have to posit the issue in those terms, and you instantly realise the folly, futility, and impossibility of the net zero agenda.

    Like

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