Coal’s decline

Terry Murden (Comment, 16 July) is right to say “the [coal] industry’s heyday is long past, never to return”.

But he misunderstands the dynamics of this industry if he believes the low contribution of UK-sourced coal to the total burned in UK power stations is “either a missed opportunity for British-mined coal or a reflection of its inability to meet demand because it no longer has the required capacity”.

UK mines cannot supply significantly higher amounts to power stations because British coal is high in sulphur compared with coal from Russia, Colombia and the USA.

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High-sulphur coal causes acid rain and is now subject to increasingly stringent EU emissions limits.

Most coal-fired power stations cannot meet those limits and will be closed in the coming years.

Longannet, the last coal-fired power station in Scotland and its single biggest polluter by a long way, is due to close within the next six years.

UK mines have to compete with cheaper and higher-quality imported coal for an inevitably declining market.

Coal’s role in the energy mix is in terminal decline.

The challenge to public authorities is to actively manage that decline so that previously coal-dependent communities can diversify and the environment is not trashed in the rush to accept coal companies’ blandishments.

Malcolm Spaven

Scottish Opencast 
Communities Alliance