EU silence on coal is telling

by Kim*

Chief European coal lobbyist, Brian Ricketts of EURACOAL, just published a sour-tempered editorial fulminating at EU policymakers and their plans to “outlaw” coal.

It is a little hard to follow his arguments – at the same time as being outlawed he maintains that “we will continue to use coal in the EU”. He bases his view of a bright future for (outlawed) coal on the usual kinds of claims based on the historic role of coal in yesterday’s electricity grids.

But the significance of his editorial is that it marks a watershed for coal in the EU. Ricketts’ rant is the voice of an angry old industry that has finally lost the arguments. EURACOAL has been whispering the same messages in the ears of EU policymakers for many years. But the thinness of industry claims have been shown up with the publication of the EU’s new energy strategy – known as the ‘Energy Union’.

EU governments reacted to the unfolding crisis in Ukraine by seeking to bring together their energy agendas under one common strategic approach. There is much to debate about what they have concluded. But on coal, the direction is very clear indeed as the communications on the Energy Union released last week do not mention coal. Not even once. None of them.

A word cloud of the text of the Commission's Energy Union strategy. Larger words occured more often in the text. (Photo: EUobserver/Wordle)

A word cloud of the text of the Commission’s Energy Union strategy. Larger words occured more often in the text. (Photo: EUobserver/Wordle)

Every other energy option – gas, efficiency, renewables, oil, nuclear – received copious attention (as can be seen by the graphic above) each with packages of specific policies and interventions. The lack of mention for coal is evidence that EU governments and policy makers do not buy the arguments of the coal lobbyists and no longer see it as of strategic significance to the EU.

This does not mean the EU has dealt with its legacy of dirty coal plants. It is not quite the outlawing of coal yet. But if coal had a future in the EU, it would have been the subject of great attention in this strategy.

What all this means is that EURACOAL’s lobbying has failed. No wonder Ricketts is so cross.

* Kim is an international energy analyst following the coal sector and blogging here in a personal capacity