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Public Meeting Against Underground Coal Gasification

A report by Rakesh, Greenpeace Newcastle Volunteer.

25th November 2014

I attend a public meeting organised by the Seaham Action Group (Against Coal Gasification) on the 25th of November, a relatively new group brought together by the knowledge and concern of the impending arrival of Underground Coal Gasification to the North East coast. In the heart of this ex-mining community there is grave concern about this process that is supposed to burn underground coal deposits in stitu while controlling the Oxygen levels to ensure the resulting gas can still be ignited to generate electricity.

Licenses were awarded in 2009 and cover our coastline from County Durham right up to Alnwick in Northumberland, and will mean that large parts of our beautiful coastline will be industrialised leading to a huge amount of plant traffic that will clog up the roads in our Towns and Cities. Though the industry makes very pretty pictures of the process explaining just how easy it will be, what they are attempting has never been tried in the UK, and where it has been attempted all sorts of problems have occured including fires burning uncontrollably and the leaking of poisonous chemicals. During the meeting one ex-miner dismissed this myth of controlled burns of Coal, because of its volatile nature, recalling how they had to ensure that no spark could be created underground within coal seams and how explosions would result wherever fires began.

The group in Seaham is just finding its feet the campaign is supported by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) who are instead calling for the coal pits to be reopened, more open cast mining to take place, and the building of new Coal Power stations, using the much fabled Carbon Capture and Storage, which incidentally the Underground Coal Gasification companies are claiming they will also use to keep their emissions down, leading to local newspapers to claim that Underground Coal Gasification is a green technology.

The problem with the Carbon Capture and Storage argument is, will industries that are heavily funded by government be forced to keep their emissions down if it is so expensive because the method is new, or will companies just be allowed to emitt more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere to keep costs down, I personally think the latter will be true if we allow these things to happen.

Underground Coal Gasification does present a danger to local environments, but favouring another method of fossil fuel extraction is no better for our future generations because it will guarantee that their lives will be blighted by catastrophic climate change.