Just a small thought on energy subsidies

The people screaming about how subsidies to fossil fuels are evil, planet destroying and proof that capitalism will boil us all.

Aren\’t they all the same people who were insistent that we must keep the coal mines open by means of subsidies?

33 comments on “Just a small thought on energy subsidies

  1. I once made a Labourites head spin by suggesting that Thatcher was great for closing down the mines, saving CO2 emissions and keeping the coal safe for a carbon capture and storage future. They really had nowhere to go.

  2. I once made a Labourites head spin by suggesting that Thatcher was great for closing down the mines, saving CO2 emissions and keeping the coal safe for a carbon capture and storage future. They really had nowhere to go.

    Closing down coal mines doesn’t save CO2 emissions if you import coal from abroad instead. In fact if you take into account the extra transportation required it probably increases CO2 emissions.

  3. I’ve made the same point as DevonChap before in greenish leftish company, but for real rather than just trolling. Everyone agreed. Which would probably have made it quite boring, if I’d been trying to troll.

    You might think foreign coal would carry higher CO2 costs, but not really. Bulk carrier shipping is an amazingly energy-efficient form of transport, and extracting coal from Aussie open mines is far more energy-efficient than extracting it from traditional UK tunnelled mines.

    Also, as DevonChap notes, a major part of the closure of the coal industry was the substitution to natural gas, which emits far less CO2 than coal for the same amount of energy.

  4. @”You might think foreign coal would carry higher CO2 costs, but not really. Bulk carrier shipping is an amazingly energy-efficient form of transport, and extracting coal from Aussie open mines is far more energy-efficient than extracting it from traditional UK tunnelled mines.”
    But the majority comes from Russia
    http://www.edfenergy.com/energyfuture/energy-gap-security/coal-and-the-energy-gap-security.
    I don’t want to be accused of being a bigot but is
    Russia the cleanest producer of coal? Also presumably it would be transported overland for a bit.

    I agree 100% about gas though.

  5. There’s a job creation programme going begging here. You could pay one lot of people to dig a hole, another lot to mine coal and a third lot to put the extracted coal in the new hole. The resource will never run out – when the coal mine is done just swap holes. Jobs for miners for life and no nasty burning coal.

  6. But the majority comes from Russia

    I’d like to see a source for that which didn’t come from EDF. If that much coal is being mined in Russia and shipped to the UK, I’ve not noticed and I’ve kept my eye on Russia pretty closely for the past decade.

  7. I take the point about the dash for gas and agree that it was both inevitable and necessary, but this didn’t start until the early 1990s – a lot of coal mines closed under Thatcher’s government before then for a combination of economic and political reasons as opposed to lack of domestic demand. Now it’s fair to say that in some cases this just postponed the inevitable, although that may not be a trivial consideration to the people whose livelihoods were affected, but at the time those closures were nothing to do with “cleaner” power generation and they were replaced with imported coal. And more than half of the coal we currently consume is imported so it’s not inherently contradictory to argue both that it’s a good thing to reduce coal consumption and that while we still do need coal we should rely on our own domestic supplies. Whether this argument is economically sound is another question altogether.

    But then I’m not sure exactly who Tim is arguing against anyway – he doesn’t give any actual examples. I read a lot of discussions about climate change and people do bring up the subject of subsidies for fossil fules (or nuclear) – sometimes they are opposed to them outright, sometimes they just bring up the subject in response to complaints about subsidies for renewables, but I don’t ever remember seeing any of those people support subsidies for the UK mining industry. Not have I seen such support from what one might call the “usual suspects” – Greenpeace, FoI, Monbiot etc. In fact, I don’t remember this coming up as a political issue at all in recent years.

  8. The point has been made elsewhere that the Thatcher government was a main driver behind global worming becoming a mainstream concern as it provided further justification for closing coal mines.

  9. John B – well, no, it is historical fact that there were some extreme worms, even global ones, within the wider reaches of the Thatcher government. Aitken and Archer for example. And, to the unthinking lefty the cry “Thatch, out, Thatch, out! Out, out, OUT!” is unrebutted by the fact that she has, indeed, been out of office for well over a decade now. Of course, this verminitude hardly differentiates it from any other government.

    (Yes, I know it’s just a typo …)

  10. Andrew adams (#13) Tim was referring to a post from Saturday, I think about Caroline Lucas , Leader of the Green Party and erstwhile progressive poster girl, who was complaining about said subsidies – Tagged under ‘climate change’ for reference…

  11. @ andrew adams
    I can remember coal mines being closed in the 1960s and although the primary driver was exhaustion of the coal seams, the replacement of poisonous coal gas with almost harmless north sea gas was indirectly a contributing factor since it became difficult to defend mining coal which cost three times its market price on “strategic grounds”.
    I find it *somewhat implausible* that the “dash for gas” was in truth a major cause of pit closure since we were importing coal from Colombia at the time many of them were closed. The replacement of coal by gas in a few British power stations can have had only a negligible impact on the world supply/demand balance for coal.
    Most British coal mines had already been closed before 1979. [And a good thing too - coal mining has always been a dirty unpleasant dangerous job, hence the higher pay which attracted workers but was not enough to fairly compensate: often lads went down the pit if they couldn't get another job and in Churchill's history of WWII he pretends that the vast number of miners volunteering for the army was down to their patriotism rather than army life being preferable. The number of coal miners killed - ignoring the greater number injured - in China under the Communists far exceeds the total killed by nuclear power since the dawn of time although China's coal production is, in energy terms, only a fraction of world civilian nuclear electricity.]

  12. @ JamesV
    I think that you are either so much older than me that your memory is failing or so much younger that you were not an adult in 1979. The issue then was CFCs damaging the ozone layer, not CO2.
    I was an enthusiast for closing coal mines during the Heath and Wilson governments for a variety of reasons, such as pneumoniocosis and smog (do you remember that the London pea-soupers” were the reason for the first-ever clean-air zones), but I do not recall global warming being one of them.

  13. All parties were singing from the green hymn-sheet from 1989 onwards after the Green party took 15% of the national vote in the Euro elections.
    IIRC.

  14. Just a small thought about how insignificant Britsh coal consumsion is on a global scale.

    http://www.mining.com/china-is-going-coal-crazy-imports-jump-56-75637/?utm_source=digest-en-coal-130211&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digest

    In the article they mention that …China now consumes almost as much coal as the rest of the world combined and coal consumption in the country shows no signs of slowing down…

    China is importing 500 million tonnes per year to top-up the 3.66 billion tonnes per year they mine themselves.

    Now, I think the records will show the coal output from the UK never ever reach a paltry 500 million tonnes per year!

  15. I was thinking to my self I what the greens will say if/when the whole CAGW thing does turn out to be bollocks, then I though well no these are the same people who proposed nationalizing the shit out of everything and they conveniently ignore that. Pretty soon they will have been proved wrong consistently on pretty much every point for a century, fucking up on CAGW will be the cherry on the cake, no more warming until 2017 would be a tremendous anniversary of the Russian revolution.

  16. @DrMakajaz: they will soon find another bandwagon to jump on which will provide a convenient process to continue their basic desire to control other human beings.

    There was a pretty seamless switch from Communism to Greenery, I reckon they’ll already be positioning themselves in the event the whole AGW scam comes crashing down. You can already see it in the mutation of ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’ to ‘extreme weather’.

    Unfortunately just as it took 70 years and tens of millions of deaths for Communism to collapse, it will probably take a multi-decadal period, and be as destructive, for AGW to be proved to be a bust (by the simple fact of the global climate not following the script).

    My guess for the next bandwagon would be something related to resources running out – water, food, energy etc, the necessity to conserve them, and obviously control their consumption. Because thats effectively the same control measures that are being put in place for reducing CO2 emissions, but under a different banner. Once it is obvious that CO2 is not affecting the climate negatively, the control measures will be justified by other reasons.

  17. “My guess for the next bandwagon would be something related to resources running out”

    What Milton Friedman said about nationalizing the Sahara desert!

  18. The “global water crisis” is already wound up to “just about to break into fever” pitch.

    See the UN at Human Development Report 2006, Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis; and everything at water.org.

    I’d note that although there is pretty much the same alarmism here that there is with CAGW, there appears to be much less outright lying. I suppose that’s because there isn’t yet the funding for the charlatans to decide to leap onto the band-wagon.

  19. In fact I can see a seamless transition from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’ to ‘extreme weather’ (which already is being taken to include snow storms such as the one that hit the US east coast recently) to ‘crop failure due to cooling climate’, ending up with demands to control all energy and food production for the ‘fair’ division of them globally, in the face of a cooling climate, and falling food production.

    The fact that a few decades earlier they were claiming we were all going to fry won’t stop them, any more than it did in the 90s when predictors of global warming weren’t embarrassed by the predictions 20 years previously the world was about to enter a new Ice Age. Once there’s a good scare running (everyone is going to starve or freeze to death unless you do as we say) logic and accountability for previous statements will go out the window. And of course as it won’t be actual same faces producing the scary scenarios, even though they will still be the heads of the same quangos, and State departments, they have plausible deniability – I never said that, nothing to do with me.

  20. As one who lives in an ex-mining area and whose family worked for 60 plus years in the industry I can tell you that most of the mines closed in my area due to geological issues in extracting the coal. There are still millions of tonnes underground which could be used for energy. Like other industries e.g oil and gas exploration there are new technologies which could now make it economic to extract our own coal. Will the government and the sandal wearing eco loon wankers support it ? Never.
    In the meantime “green ” Germany commit to build over 20 new coal fired power stations – go figure !

  21. Mactheknife: “there are new technologies which could now make it economic to extract our own coal” – absolutely no chance in the next 100 years. Even in the absence of any environmental controls/taxes at all, near-surface Aussie coal is an order of magnitude cheaper to extract than tunnelled UK coal, and bulk transport doesn’t add much to the cost.

  22. @John b

    Do pay attention John. Did I say it was the cheapest ? No. What I did say it was more economic with newer technologies than it was 25 years ago when they closed. In the O&G industry they are going back to reservoirs discovered in the 70′s but not extracted due to geological difficulties using new methods.

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