Sunday, December 17, 2006

Grow fuel instead of opencasting site

A LIBERAL Democrat councillor who led the campaign against a huge opencast site in Gateshead has called on the Government to put more effort into growing crops for energy.

Dr Jonathan Wallace, Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside, wrote the petition and collected thousands of signatures last year which led to the defeat of the proposal to opencast half a million tonnes of coal and fireclay from Skon’s Park, next to the historic Gibside estate in the Derwent Valley.

The applicant, Halls of Durham, are now appealing against the decision.

“Opencast mining at Skon’s Park would be the thin end of the wedge,” said Jonathan. “It would be a precedent for other applications throughout the Derwent Valley.

“But in saying no to opencast mining at this location, we have to come up with a solution to our energy needs. This location, and many others like it, could be used for growing energy crops or bio fuels such as fast growing willow and elder.

“These could be cropped regularly and used as a fuel in small scale, local power plants. This will mean less pollution caused in transporting the fuel to large power stations, and less traffic overall.

“Overall, there would be no carbon emissions which are leading to global climate change. Any carbon dioxide produced by burning this bio fuel would have been absorbed from the air whilst the crops were growing.

“The government needs to take a lead in encouraging the use of energy crops. The government is already on record for saying there is not enough opencast mining in the country.

“My fear now is that they will relax the rules to make it easier for opencast applications to be passed.”

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