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Environment

To go green, we need more coal

Christopher Furlong/Getty

“The great paradox of addressing climate change,” says Sky News’s Ed Conway in a Twitter thread, is that in the process of going green we will have to burn more fossil fuels and dig more stuff out of the ground. Yet politicians and environmentalists are of one voice: “there’s no place for new fossil fuel projects” on our shores. Witness the uproar over plans to open Britain’s first new coal mine in decades, in Cumbria. People are up in arms because they rightly don’t want coal burnt for energy. But this mine is for the so-called “coking” coal used to produce steel and other metals – if we don’t produce it here, we’ll just be importing it from elsewhere.

Similarly, activists and MPs argue that if we’re committed to green energy, we should spend money on wind turbines or solar panels rather than on fossil fuels. But we can’t produce state-of-the-art turbines without carbon fibre, which requires fossil fuels. And in order to turn raw silica into silicon metal for solar panels, you need a “magic ingredient”: coking coal. The upshot of our squeamishness over fossil fuel projects here is that wind turbines, solar panels, and the “thousands of other green products” that rely on similar processes are made elsewhere, in far dirtier conditions, mostly in China. Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing humankind. “It does us no favours to approach it with delusion or wishful thinking.”

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