No more UK deep-mine underground coal production, then. Momentous, in its own way. Yonks ago I advocated moving to the new coal-burning technologies ("ultra supercritical" sounds suitably 21st C) but they don't seem to be gaining any traction in Europe or the USA, so maybe China? - but I'd be surprised to see them around these parts anytime soon. No, it looks like gas for us which ain't so bad actually; the timing is good and there are things we can do as an accomplished trading nation to mitigate the geopolitical risks of import dependency.
But let me sketch out a gloomier thesis ...
Lovelock's great dictum, Civilisation is energy-intensive, should be written above every door in Westminster and Whitehall. Remember how we got here. In the 18thC, British engineers were moving ahead with the developments that would underpin the industrial revolution. To fuel this, notably, there was a massive switch from biofuels / charcoal to coal, which marks a gigantic advance in efficiency - without it, the IR would have been dead in its tracks as almost every suitable forest in England had been cut down for burning.
In the relevant jargon, coal has excellent energy density (if not as good or flexible as oil) and an absolutely superb ERoEI (we ran a thread on this a couple of years back). The ERoEI perspective is important, and if you don't know it, you should take the time. (You'll find that it's not without controversy ...) Tracking back downhill from using coal and there will be progressively less energy, and hence less wealth, to be spending on civilisation or the defence thereof, until someone figures out something really clever with boron or thorium or whatever.
So - civilisation: what sustains it? Let's allow that ancient Greece was recognisably a civilisation; and Rome; and several others besides in the ancient world (we needn't be eurocentric about this). Slave labour ... pillage ... and of course total military superiority over a relevant part of the globe. No-one ever thrived freely to reach their civilisation-potential when an immediate neighbour had a clear and sustained advantage in weaponry.
Which brings us to the gloom. What happens when one civilisation deprives itself of an economic 'weapon' of the first magnitude, while others (in this case China and India) have every intention of retaining it ? We may shortly find out.
This isn't one-dimensional. Gas really is pretty cheap just now, and plenty of the costs are sunk. China will slowly kill its population if it continues emitting outright pollution (as opposed to CO2) on the current scale: this alone will cause them to clean up their act (& yes, that can satisfactorily be read both ways). The west may, paradoxically, somehow, gain a mighty strategic benefit from forcing itself 'needlessly' into a more costly energy paradigm - though it's most unlikely to be the one the greens imagine ("it creates lots of jobs!" - yeah, and destroys plenty, too); far more likely to be a variant of the 'phoenix phenomenon' that I wrote about here. It's hard to see chaotic India as a threat to the west: any gains they make in ERoEI will be frittered away rather than parlayed into Chinese-style slow-burning expansionist aggression.
And I well know that at this point many will chorus "go nuke!" Well, maybe - but can we afford the decade-long development schedules, not to mention the grotesque costs? If there's one 'authority' who enjoys the respect - often grudging - of most, it's Prof David Mackay, and he (if I've understood correctly) reckons nuke is the way to go.
Thanks to Scargill, King Coal has fewer friends in the UK than he might. Guardian readers mourn his passing in the same way Telegraph readers lament the disbanding of a great infantry regiment or the scrapping of an aircraft carrier: but even most of the reds (well, the reds that read) have learned some green instincts. By the end of March another substantial tranche of our coal-fired power plants will have closed forever. The remainder will run for a few years on open-cast & imported coal. Gas it is, for better or worse. There's no going back.