PRESSURE is mounting on the Government to look at ways of tapping into the North’s coal reserves after David Cameron promised his party would invest in green mining technology.
The Conservative leader will make “green coal” a Conservative priority if elected, a policy which could see the Tories look again at coal mines closed down under Margaret Thatcher.
Recent advances in how power stations can burn coal without releasing dangerous carbon dioxide into the atmosphere have meant the 500m tonnes of coal buried beneath the North-East could once again be mined.
Last month Gateshead Council wrote to the Government requesting support for “a cluster of (North-East) companies uniquely placed to take forward this kind of technology”.
And although energy minister Malcolm Wicks last night accused Cameron of “joining the party late” his department have yet to reply to the council.
The letter was sent on November 26 but so far the department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has yet to indicate any extra support for the schemes being pioneered in the North-East.
Berwick Conservative parliamentary candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan said she would be inviting Mr Cameron to meet some of the North businesses and scientists working on the new techniques.
“It is a great shame that with so many Labour politicians in the North-East we still are not heard, and that has been going on for 10 years.
“The Government should realise what is going on in its own backyard and commit to it.”
Mr Cameron yesterday told a conference in China: “Developing green coal will be a priority for a Conservative Government, we will do what it takes to make Britain a world leader in this crucial field.
“All existing coal-fired power stations should be retro-fitted with carbon capture and storage, and all future coal-fired power stations should be built with this. If we don’t do this, we will not meet our carbon emissions targets.”
Carbon capture works by containing the carbon dioxide given off by power stations and storing it in natural reservoirs beneath the earth.
President of the National Union of Mineworkers Ian Lavery, of Ashington, said the Conservatives would have to offer “more than just words” if they want to prove their new-found love of coal.
He said: “You have to remember that the Conservative Party for years classified miners as the enemy within, and brought about the demise of the coal industry.
“So now we produce around 10 million tonnes a year.
“But coal accounts for 50% of the UK’s energy, and the technology is there to make coal clean.
“Through processes like carbon capture we can make coal environmentally friendly. So people who belive coal is finished or a fuel of the past need to have a rethink.
“We’ve always said that coal has a future and for Cameron to eventually come round to this, well, it comes as no surprise to me, but his party have a lot more still to do.”
Mr Wicks, the energy minister, said the Government was looking at carbon capture techniques. He said: “David Cameron is showing his lack of credibility on the environment by demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the action the UK Government is already taking to develop clean coal.
“Labour is part-funding a project in China testing carbon capture and storage technology, committing £3.5m through the European Union.”
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