The battle lines were drawn once more in the UK last month as protests against coal-fired power were held by environmental activists, who established a climate camp near the Kingsnorth power plant in Kent.
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The battle lines were drawn once more in the UK last month as protests against coal-fired power were held by environmental activists, who established a climate camp near the Kingsnorth power plant in Kent. The debate centred on whether the UK Government should go ahead with a new generation of coal-fired power plants. The Government sees the plant, and others like it, as a potential testing ground for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which is currently unproven.
The Minister for Energy, Malcolm Wicks, argues for the development of CCS technology by the UK Government on home soil because it will allow the technology to be developed in accordance with the needs of the country, as well as allowing the UK to promote and export the technology to developing nations, encouraging them in turn to clean up their own electricity generation. The environmental protestors would like the Government to reject new coalfired power generation entirely, but the Minister argues that this would be unwise and perhaps irresponsible, especially as it is unlikely that countries like China will move away from coal in the foreseeable future. He argues: “the idea that, if we showed some kind of lead and we in Britain say no to coal, China will say ‘OK we will follow’, is just daft.”
As debates like this continue, those involved need to be responsible in the way that they present their side of the argument. Often there can be conflict between the truth of the matter and the way in which it is presented to the public. While environmentalists continue to demonise fossil fuels, those in the energy industry must be wary of greenwash influencing the methods they use to promote their work. As Chris Smith, chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK, considers: “ambiguous or exaggerated claims risk generating scepticism and undermine the genuine initiatives that many businesses … are taking to be greener.”2 It is understandable that because ‘being green’ has become so fashionable, companies could be tempted to over-emphasise that aspect of their work. Furthermore the ASA acknowledges that in this brave new world of going green, there is confusion over the actual meaning of increasingly common terms, such as ‘carbonneutral’, ‘100% recycled’ and ‘wholly sustainable.’ Fundamentally, it is in the interests of the energy industry to represent its work as truthfully and responsibly as it can, in order to ensure an informed debate on the future of the international energy mix, which will remain top of the political agenda in the years to come.
Finally, this month brings with it the largest mining trade show, MINExpo, which is held every four years in Las Vegas, Nevada, US. World Coal will, of course, be there and we would love to see you at our booth, number 945. For our coverage of the show, turn to page 35.