The UK’s new coal age

– Everyone is pointing at China these days as the biggest source of global pollution and warming. Especially, with reference to their dependency on coal and the rate at which they are building new coal-fired power plants.

– So here’s a piece coming back from China pointing out some of the hypocrisy of this view. Interesting, to say the least.

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George Monbiot

January 03, 2008

On a green hilltop in Wales — despite huge opposition from local people — diggers have begun excavating what will be the largest opencast coal mine in Britain. Why is this happening? George Monbiot investigates.

As I watched the machine scraping away the first buckets of soil, one thought kept clanging through my head: “If this is allowed to happen, we might as well give up now.” It didn’t look like much: just a yellow digger and a couple of trucks taking the earth away. But in a secure compound behind me were the heaviest beasts I have ever seen — 1,300 horsepower or more — lined up and ready to start digging one of the largest opencast coal mines in Europe. In Romania, perhaps? The Czech Republic? No, in Britain, on a hilltop in south Wales.

The diggers at Ffos-y-fran, on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil, are set to excavate 1,000 acres [nearly 405 hectares] of land to a depth of 600 feet [nearly 183 metres]. There has never been a hole quite like it in Britain, and our government’s climate-change policies are about to fall into it.

Everything about this scheme is odd. The edge of the site is just 36 metres from the nearest homes, yet there will be no compensation for the owners, and their concerns have been dismissed by the authorities. Although local people have fought the plan, their council, the Welsh government and the national government at Westminster have collaborated with the developers to force it through, using questionable methods. I have found evidence that suggests to me that a member of former prime minister Tony Blair’s government used false or outdated information to seek to persuade the Welsh administration to approve the pit. But perhaps the most remarkable fact is this: outside Merthyr Tydfil, hardly anyone knows it is happening.

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