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There’s change in the air at Drax

Tim Webb, Independent
Europe’s biggest producer of coal-fired power is out to prove that it can clean up its act
The politics of energy are shifting. Nuclear power companies used to be prime targets of the environmental lobby. But that was before the world began worrying about carbon emissions. Now, green protesters have turned their ire on the coal industry.

Drax, the FTSE 100 company that owns the coal-fired power station of the same name in North Yorkshire, is very much at the top of their blacklist. It is the UK’s largest power station of any kind, producing about 7 per cent of our electricity. It is also Europe’s largest coal plant and the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in this country.

Hundreds of eco-protesters converged on the power station in August to try to shut it down, the first large-scale action against the coal industry in Britain. At the time, a spokesman for the energy companies called them “daft, dangerous and misguided”. But beyond that, the industry – traditionally publicity averse – made little response and was happy to let police deal with the matter.

But now, in her first big interview since the protest, Dorothy Thompson, the only British woman serving as chief executive of a FTSE 100 company, explains how Drax is trying to clean up its image. She admits the coal industry has, in the past, been poor at communicating, particularly on green issues.
(4 March 2007)

Industry closes anti-coal website

Wendy Frew,, Sydney Morning Herald
THE mining industry has used copyright laws to close an anti-mining website launched by a small protest group in Newcastle.

The NSW Minerals Council has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV, print and billboard advertising campaign and launched a website extolling the virtues of mining. The campaign’s slogan is “Life: brought to you by mining”.

The anti-coal group Rising Tide created its own website sending up the campaign with comments such as “Rising sea levels: brought to you by mining”.

The website’s hosts were forced to remove it within 24 hours of its launch, after the Minerals Council issued a notice under the Copyright Regulations 1969 complaining the content and layout infringed copyright.

Rising Tide remade the website, using its own photographs and layout. However, the council lodged a second complaint.

“They are trying to silence us,” said a Rising Tide member, Steve Phillips. “We have issued a counter-notice rejecting the Minerals Council’s spurious claims. [It] now has 10 days in which to take the matter [to court].”

There is growing public concern about coal’s contribution to climate change, and mining’s threat to underground and above-ground water supplies.
(5 March 2007)
See also Tensions loom over Greens’ coal plans.

Impact of coal’s windfall-royalty double-whammy still to be determined, says Sasol CEO Davies

Martin Creamer, Mining Weekly
The double impact of windfall taxes and royalties on the cost of coal mining and synthetic fuels production had still to be determined, Sasol CEO Pat Davies said on Wednesday.

“It’s still too early to say,” he replied to a Mining Weekly Online question on Sasol’s being the only company in South Africa that faced a double whammy of windfall taxes and also mining royalty taxes. ..

On Sasol seeking in future to avoid building projects in South African in order to escape the country’s rising taxation and fiscal uncertainty, Davies said that the South African government was keen to see that indigenous resources were beneficiated into liquid fuels and it was a matter of discussion between Sasol and the government in order to arrive at the correct framework that would encourage investment by Sasol in South Africa.. ..

Internationally, Sasol would ship its first green diesel from its gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar by the end of this month. In China it had “not made as much progress” as it would have liked on commercial feasibility for its coal-to-liquids projects in China. “Negotiations are tough,” said Davies, referring to the $6-billion potential deal with China. ..
(6 Mar 2007)

Gujarat power plants may fire up coal imports by 300%

Abhishek Shanker, India TImes
AHMEDABAD: Huge investments lined up in coal-fired power plants in Gujarat will propel coal imports by almost 300% over the next four to five years. If the proposed investments in imported coal-fired power units come through, ports in Gujarat will import over 50-55 million tonnes of coal annually, up from current imports of less than a million tonnes.

Coal consumption by captive power units in coastal areas will also increase, which should further boost demand in the state.An ultra mega power project of 4,000 MW based on imported coal alone will consume close to 16 mt to 18 mt of coal.

In addition, other 10,000-MW imported coal power projects were announced during the Investors’ Summit in January this year, all of which will be based in the coastal areas of Gujarat. While the ultra mega power project will be executed by Tata Power, other players setting up imported coal-based units include Videocon, Torrent Power, GSPC and Visa Power. ..
(6 Mar 2007)

Dethroning King Coal

Editorial, Boston Globe
WITH PRESIDENT BUSH finally acknowledging climate change but still opposing mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, environmentalists have to content themselves with limited victories in the effort to curb global warming. ..

Whether the scaling back of TXU’s coal plans will set an example for other utilities remains to be seen. Last week, a leadingclimate change scientist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, James Hansen, said the nation should put a moratorium on all new coal-burning plants and plan to “bulldoze” by midcentury any such plants that do not include technology for capturing and burying their carbon dioxide emissions.

The TXU deal would not pass muster with Hansen, but the agreement does include a commitment by the utility to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, support a $400 million efficiency program, and back mandatory national caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

That puts TXU in the same camp as major corporations like GE and Du Pont, and leading presidential contenders in both parties. Thanks to the likes of Al Gore and James Hansen, the public and the corporate boardroom are preparing for the kind of climate change action that the Bush administration still shrinks from.
(5 Mar 2007)