This week's statement on the future permitting of coal-fired power-plants is good, worldly-wise strategy: the type we appprove of hereabouts.
Firstly, as we've been saying for a long while, high-tech coal has a major role to play. Second, the lead-time for implementing so much of the Carbon Capture concept, 'CCS' (which is only medium-tech, but requires a huge amount of infrastructure) is considerable. Third, our needs for new generating capacity are more urgent than that protracted timetable can allow.
So the strategy needs to be stepwise, and that's what Miliband (Ed) has announced, allowing the industry to get on with it. In particular, he's set a very low barrier for what 'CCS-ready' means:
"The Government will only consider applications if they:
- Confirm sufficient space available to retrofit CCS
- Identify a suitable potential offshore area to store carbon dioxide
- Map a feasible potential transport route from the power station to the storage area and
- Do not have foreseeable barriers to retrofitting CCS.
Together, these criteria will prove a power station is ‘carbon capture ready’."
To put it mildly, these criteria need not be *ahem* very difficult to satisfy. So (provided electricity prices are high enough - and they probably will be) the power companies will crack on with developing new coal plant, which is exactly what they really like to do; and the future can look after itself. If CCS demonstrators work out OK - and the government of the day sees fit to line their pockets with silver - the companies will retro-fit CCS. If either of these two criteria never come to pass, we'll still have the new capacity.
The realpolitik of all this is driving poor Mr Monbiot to distraction, but there it is, George old son. In amongst the wreckage of Brown's hapless, hopeless government Miliband has cleverly squared an awkward circle. He's even spinning it as a victory for the green lobby !
Yes, Miliband (Ed) may indeed be the man to watch for in 2010.