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12 August 2008

A new twist on Red vs. Green

You know what they say about "the left" (if such a thing even exists any more, or ever did) : the only time they form a circle is when they're going to form a firing squad. In a way this is the red vs. green battle from the 1970s, but with all the (polluted) water that's gone under the bridge, there has been some shifting. George Monbiot, as lefty-greeny as you can get, made the quixotic gesture of trying to bring some sense into the carbon-reduction, energy crisis, global warming (WE'RE ALL DOOMED!) "debate" and essentially issued a challenge to the boosters of nuclear energy. A challenge that he never expects them to be able to meet. But having failed to pronounce Shibboleth correctly, he came in for attacks.
Last week's Guardian had a comment piece by, of all people, Arthur Scargill (I'm ashamed to say, I genuinely thought he was dead.) The title directs itself to Monbiot, and claims that coal is not the "climate enemy" but rather a potential planet-saviour. It is an astonishing piece really, and I am quite glad that Monbiot answered it, because I did think, when he (Scargill) waxed lyrically about all the deep, rich coal under England's green and pleasant, the first thought in my mind was "open-cast". And my instincts were right in this, if Monbiot is to be believed instead of Scargill:

When he speaks of a resurgent coal industry, he pictures deep seams hacked out by grimy workers romantically dying of silicosis. But, with a few minor exceptions, this is no longer how coal is produced in the UK. New research I’ve commissioned, published for the first time here, shows that the industry is planning a great opencast revival.

Monbiot goes on to tell about a proposal in the Welsh assembly to require a minimum distance from any new open-cast mine to any residential area, and although it doesn't seem a very great distance (half a kilometer), if adopted, it would "sterilise" any proposed new mines.
This means that they could no longer be dug. The pits are viable only if they are allowed to wreck the lives of local people. Even before a lump of clean coal is burnt, its extraction trashes the environment.

Scargill's and Monbiot's otherwise fascinating articles both end with some strange arcane business about a "duel" where they will each be sealed in a room with the poisonous substance of their choice, which I found totally baffling. I guess you need to have a penis to really understand how some things work after all.

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