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Coal Comfort

So, German energy giant E.ON have decided not to build a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth. A virtual party broke out amongst climate activists via text, Twitter and Facebook last night, as we all shared our jubilance at the news.

Two years ago, the imminent building of the UK's first new coal power plant for 30 years was a foregone conclusion. Then came the protests.

People marched on the power station. They camped beside it. They leapt over its fences. They scaled its chimneys. Together, a huge coalition turned Kingsnorth into the biggest hate figure in the whole of Britain. Now, following delay after delay, last night's announcement by E.ON that they're putting it on hold for at least three years sounds like the thwack of the final nail in the new-coal-coffin to me.

E.ON claim their decision was based on lower energy demand caused by the recession. But this makes no sense at all. The recession is happening now, but a new power station wouldn't come online for several years, so today's economic situation is surely irrelevant to a decision that's all about the long term? It's a feeble attempt at an excuse, though the press seem to be taking it at face value. I think the truth is more likely to be found in the multiple political difficulties they have encountered in trying to push through the Kingsnorth project, which would have emitted more CO2 than Tanzania.

Of course, this doesn't mean the struggle against fossil-fuelled energy insanity is over. Hot on the heels of E.ON's announcement (and probably not unrelated to its timing) comes the news of possible plans to build a different power station up in Doncaster. Well, I'd like to see them try! It will be beset by all the same problems Kingsnorth faced; not least, the need to produce 'clean coal' when the technology is years away from being able to deliver such a thing, and a growing army of citizens prepared to give their time, energy, even their liberty to stop it.

We don't need coal to 'keep the lights on', and E.ON's announcement is a huge encouragement to all those tirelessly campaigning for a saner energy future. So what next? We now need to start the process of closing down our existing coal-fuelled facilities and making a much more rapid shift to renewables. The climate camp is planning on making this point by shutting down the UK's third largest coal power station, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, (also, un-coincidentally, owned by E.ON) in 9 days' time.

Perhaps I'll see you there?

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