I have just sent a quick email to my MP about the decision to approve Woodhouse Colliery. He, thanks to the efforts of our local CCL group, understands and supports the case for Climate Income but I would have written even if I was not campaignong for Climate Income. The decision makes no sense even under ours and Europe’s current carbon pricing system (ETS).

I am perturbed that the Woodhouse colliery has been approved, ostensibly to prevent the need to import coking coal, yet….There are only two potential customers for this coal in the UK: Tata Steel and British Steel. Yet Chris McDonald, chief executive of the Materials Processing Institute, said earlier this year: “British Steel have said they cannot use the coal from this mine because the sulphur levels are too high. Tata Steel have said if the coal were available, then they may or may not use a small amount. There isn’t anyone in the steel industry who’s calling for the mine.” 

This retrograde step delays the industrial changes needed to move away from fossil fuels and will decrease our future competitiveness. We will also lose the credibility and leadership we gained at COP26 with the Powering Past Coal Alliance. As the future for steel is acknowledged to be smelting using green hydrogen and electrolysis for recycling steel we would do better to invest in green hydrogen. According to the LGA Cumbria could have 6,000 new jobs by 2030 with the right investments in green infrastructure, with 600 in Copeland.

BEIS has had a 250 million Clean Steel fund since 2019 and an Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, lets use it to get ahead of the game and future proof our industry. Germany and Sweden are already piloting the technology, we will fast lose any competitive edge if we stick to this outdated technology the industry doesn’t want. With a sensible carbon pricing mechanism like Climate Income the price of coal coking of steel would also soon lose any competitive advantage, and it may even do so under ETS. The decision could be called Luddite, or at least extremely short sighted!

I think we need to show our MPs that the decision was foolhardy to say the least. Send them an email or maybe a Christmas card to show that bad decisions on energy and industrial strategy will always come home to roost!