Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Light at end of tunnel for British coal-mining industry

Pierre Pratabuy, AFP via Yahoo
.. After 60 years of decline, the industry has been shaken up by technology which has slashed energy wasted in the coal-mining process — while also cutting carbon dioxide emmissions. The Cwmgwrach facility — set to restart production this year — will be the first opening of a deep mine for around 30 years. ..

With a growing global consensus emerging over the catastrophic threat of global warming, coal mining has witnessed something of a renaissance. Added to the picture, rising coal prices and rampant Chinese demand — alongside dwindling British gas and oil reserves in the North Sea — have sparked new interest in coal.

“The future looks brighter for coal than it has for at least two decades,” said Iain McMenemy, a spokesman for Scottish Coal. “Demand has increased in the UK — coal now produces about 50 percent of our electricity, up from 30 percent a few years ago.”

In Britain, there are only seven coal deep-mines still in operation, according to the Department for Trade and Industry. Roughly one third of the country’s electricity was produced by coal in 2005. But that figure rose to as much as 50 percent during the past two winters owing to higher gas prices and colder weather conditions.

Back at the Cwmgwrach plant, experts estimate that some 89 million tonnes of coal remain. Production is expected to begin later this year, with annual production of 1.0 million tonnes expected from 2008 onwards. ..
(20 Feb 2007)
Hattip to Gareth Doutch of Peak Oil and Simpol, who worries Things are moving in the right direction… or are they?

Court stops coal plant fast-track

Melinda Henneberger, Huffington Post
WACO — On the eve of hearings on six of the 11 coal-burning power plants that TXU wants to build in a hurry across the state, a judge in Austin ruled that Governor Rick Perry never had the authority to fast-track permits for the new plants in the first place.

It is unclear whether Goliath will stay dead. But at a rally of nearly 1,000 opponents of the TXU plan at the Waco Convention Center Tuesday night, a local rancher who filed the lawsuit that led to the temporary injunction got a long standing ovation. “Here we are, a little old group from Riesel, Texas, and we sued the Governor and won,” said the rancher, Robert Cervenka. If the new plants were built, “I’d have four right around my house.” They would also double CO2 emissions in Texas, which already emits more of the greenhouse gas than any other state in the country.

“I feel like a pyromaniac who lit the spark that started the blaze,” Cervenka exulted, and pulled a copy of the late afternoon ruling by District Court Judge Stephen Yelenosky from his coat pocket. ..

Perry’s opponents often point out that his decision to fast-track the permits in 2005 closely followed a TXU donation to his re-election campaign, while allies argue that after Hurricane Katrina temporarily knocked out natural gas production in the Gulf, Perry was understandably concerned about relying on natural gas.

Tom “Smitty” Smith, the Texas state director of Public Citizen, who was also at the meeting in Waco, scoffed at the corruption allegations: “For $173,000? You wouldn’t do that.” But whatever the motivation, he said, Perry “has got coal all over his face.” ..
(21 Feb 2007)
See Dallas Morning News for more rounded report and timeline.-LJ

Cleaner Coal Is Attracting Some Doubts

Matthew Wald, New York Times via The Ledger
Within the next few years, power companies are planning to build about 150 coal plants to meet growing electricity demands. Despite expectations that global warming rules are coming, almost none of the plants will be built to capture the thousands of tons of carbon dioxide that burning coal spews into the atmosphere.

Environmentalists are worried, but they put their faith in a technology that gasifies the coal before burning. Such plants are designed, they say, to be more adaptable to separating the carbon and storing it underground.

Most utility officials counter that the gasification approach is more expensive and less reliable, but they say there is no need to worry because their tried-and-true method, known as pulverized coal, can also be equipped later with hardware to capture the global warming gas.

But now, influential technical experts are casting doubts on both approaches.

“The phrases ‘capture ready’ and ‘capture capable’ are somewhat controversial,” said Revis James, the director of the energy technology assessment center at the Electric Power Research Institute. “It’s not like you just leave a footprint for some new equipment.”

Many experts outside the industry share his concerns. ..
(21 Feb 2007)

Activists charged after stopping coal loading

ABC Finance via Yahoo
Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) has not yet indicated if it will take action against Greenpeace to recoup its losses from yesterday’s protest which brought coal loading operations to a halt.
Two Greenpeace activists chained themselves to a conveyor belt, which stopped ships from being loaded at Kooragang Island for two hours. Both will face Newcastle court next month charged with trespass and causing malicious damage.
Greenpeace spokesman Ben Pearson says while the protest may have been costly to the coal industry, it was worth it. “Look, the real damage is being caused by this coal, the coal that we’ve stopped being loaded would cause millions of dollars worth of climate damage, that’s the real issue here, not the profits of coal companies but the damage that would be cause by that coal being used and contributing to climate change,” he said. ..
(22 Feb 2007)
Opposition to coal (Australia’s number one export) is growing Down Under – previously its been woodchip exports that get targeted.-LJ