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Kenyon-Slaney defends coal's role in energy mix

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World Coal,

Harry Kenyon-Slaney, chief executive – energy at Rio Tinto, has mounted a vigorous defence of coal’s role in the global energy mix at a business lunch, calling for a concerted global effort to clean the fuel up.

“Put simply, that all-important requirement – for large-scale, reliable, affordable energy — means one thing only. A great deal of it will be generated from coal,” Kenyon-Slaney argued. “That’s because coal is abundant – with estimated global reserves plentiful for more than another century.”

Kenyon-Slaney argued that any attempt to remove coal from the energy mix would result in economic stagnation with resulting “social and political unraveling”, calling this an incontrovertible truth.

"Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is," he said, drawing on the words of British wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill.

Consequently, the challenge of cleaning up coal was “far more urgent and important” than the moon landing, he went on to say, but could be solved “by the same methodical process”. Key to this process would be the development of an incentive framework for developing and deploying commercial-scale carbon capture and storage technology.

“Breakthroughs in low-emissions coal generation will be fundamental,” he concluded. “They could break the back of this problem."

Kenyon-Slaney has been chief executive of Rio Tinto Energy since 2012 having been at the company since 1990. He is also the current chairman of the World Coal Association and a director of the IEA’s Coal Industry Advisory Board.

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