The BBC and the Cumbria coal mine
AT THE start of this year, there was some controversy about plans for a new coal mine at Whitehaven, Cumbria, one of the most deprived parts of the country. The pit, which had been unanimously approved by Cumbria County Council, would be state-of-the-art, clean and environmentally friendly, and create hundreds of much-needed jobs. It would supply high-quality coking coal to UK steelmakers, who currently have to import the stuff from halfway round the world, generating unnecessary carbon emissions.
To most people, it was obvious that the project should go ahead. However the green lobby, with Greenpeace at the forefront, violently objected because of their hatred for fossil fuels. This led to a series of five articles by Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s ‘Environmental Analyst’, between January 6 and February 4 with highly prejudiced headlines such as ‘Boris Johnson “risks humiliation” over coal mine’.
The five articles were all utterly biased against the mine, with extensive quotes from Greenpeace, the Committee on Climate Change, Oxfam, CPRE The Countryside Charity (formerly known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England), Labour, Lib Dems and the Green Party. There were even comments from the Fiji ambassador.
None of the articles contained any mention of the benefits the mine would bring, whether economic or environmental, and virtually no comments at all from supporters of the mine, local politicians or trade unionists.
Following this sustained campaigning by the BBC, the government was pressured into suspending permission for the mine, subjecting it to a new inquiry, which has still to give its judgment.
Outside the green lobby, of course, there was no controversy about the mine at all, and without the BBC’s involvement it is unlikely the government would have caved in.
Many, including myself, complained to the BBC about their behaviour in this matter. Not only were Harrabin’s articles palpably biased, there was no other BBC news coverage in favour of the mine during this crucial period.
Naturally, the BBC’s in-house Complaints Department rejected all these protests. Their main defence was an article published last October, long before the mine had become an issue, which was more balanced, offering pro- and anti-mine views. (Needless to say, this was not written by Harrabin). This plainly does not address the complaint about bias during the period January/February, when the anti-mine campaign was at its height.
They argued that that ‘due impartiality’ does not mean that every report has to reflect all views and facts. Therefore it was OK for Harrabin to write his series of one-sided articles.
That series was plainly little more than an expression of Harrabin’s political views. He has every right to be an environmental campaigner, but he cannot be a BBC journalist at the same time.
Meanwhile, thanks to the BBC’s campaign, hundreds of families in Whitehaven will remain in poverty.
Greenland meltdown update
You will no doubt recall the hysterical headlines a few weeks ago proclaiming the imminent disappearance of the Greenland ice sheet after a few days of sunny weather. Sky News even told us that enough ice had melted in one day to cover Florida in two inches of water!
You will therefore be pleased to know that the icecap did not melt away after all. Indeed, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute, DMI, the ice sheet ended the summer with an above-average volume, due to one of the shortest melt seasons on record:
DMI’s calculations don’t include the mass that is lost when glaciers calve off icebergs, which is worked out at the end of the year. When this is taken into account, there is a small net loss of ice, but the rate of loss has declined in the last decade, contributing only about two inches a century to sea level rise.
Greenland’s ice sheet has been slowly melting since the mid-19th century, which scientists say was the coldest era there since the Ice Age. There is plenty of evidence which shows that Greenland’s glaciers were smaller in the Middle Ages than now, and a recent study found the remains of willow shrubs beneath retreating glaciers. These shrubs have been dated to 400 to 500 years ago.
We also know that temperatures across Greenland were just as high as now in the 1930s and 40s. In short, there is nothing unprecedented or concerning about the current state of Greenland’s climate.
But that won’t stop the same sort of silly headlines reappearing next year.
One of the most shameful and destructive aspects of the EU’s obsession with climate has been its promotion of bioenergy. Biofuel mandates have led to the widespread destruction of rainforests in Indonesia and elsewhere to supply the EU with palm oil.
Meanwhile forests are being razed in Europe and North America for burning as biomass in European power stations. Genuine environmentalists in the US are horrified at the damage done to ecostructures there as virgin forests are destroyed to produce wood pellets, most of which end up here at Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Biomass accounts for nearly a quarter of the UK’s renewable electricity.
Using wood to generate electricity actually emits more carbon dioxide than coal, because it is a less energy-dense fuel, meaning you need more of it. On top of that are the emissions associated with pellet production and shipping across the Atlantic. However, in their infinite wisdom the EU decided that biomass is really zero carbon, as in theory more trees will be grown in future to absorb the carbon dioxide emitted, even though it takes decades for forests to regrow. However, many of the forests cut down may never recover.
Because biomass is classed as ‘low carbon’, Drax were paid £789million in subsidies last year to burn the stuff, money which you pay through your electricity bills.
It is therefore the ultimate insult to find that Drax is being taken to court by the Health and Safety Executive over concerns about dust from its wood pellets.
Maybe they should go back to burning clean coal!