IEA - Approval of the Whitehaven coal mine is welcome but further deregulation is needed

From: Think Tanks
Published: Thu Dec 08 2022

Andy Mayer, Energy Analyst at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, responded to the news that government has approved a new coal mine in Cumbria

Planning approval for the Whitehaven coal mine is welcome. But it should not take five years and involvement from a Minister for such plans to get the go-ahead. Activist politicking and regulatory uncertainty makes the UK an unattractive destination for investment, and is contributing to our cost of living crisis.

This mine will produce coking coal for blast furnaces of the European steel industry until 2049. It will create over 500 jobs directly and over 1,000 indirectly. The proposition is climate neutral or positive, displacing coal produced elsewhere under less stringent environmental controls. It will not delay the transition of the steel industry to electrification, but support the industrial growth required to fund that change.

Meanwhile, all of the arguments in favour of this mine apply equally to the UK's gas wealth. Were the seismic rules that apply to mining applied to fracking we would have started that onshore industry a decade ago. We would then be exporting product to help Europe fight Russia, facing much lower prices, and raising revenues that could be used to invest in R&D in better alternatives to coal and gas.

The mine is a long overdue good decision. But unless the government follows up with wider deregulation and pragmatism, it will be a rounding error in our wider growth challenge and low carbon transition.

Notes to editors

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The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.

Company: Think Tanks

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