Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rules Holding Back the 'Green Coal Revolution' Scientists Pleading for Law Change

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rules Holding Back the 'Green Coal Revolution' Scientists Pleading for Law Change

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional Affairs Correspondent

OUTDATED rules are holding back what is potentially one of the biggest breakthroughs in tackling climate change and stalling a study which could create a new coal industry in the North East, it was claimed last night.

Scientists are pleading with the Government to make a "simple" change in the law and kick-start a new era of clean North East coal.

Experts at Newcastle University are calling on the region's politicians to take the concerns straight to the heart of Government as they seek to change the way groundbreaking "underground gasification" is controlled.

The university's Pro-Vice-Chancellor Paul Younger is heading a team which aims to turn North East coal into a gas while still underground.

At the moment the complex process is governed by the Petroleum Act, which means the university is competing against big oil companies for the chance to research coalfields potentially worth billions of pounds.

Since licences are handed out rarely, and at a considerable cost, the chance of the university piloting a scheme are currently limited.

Prof Younger has told MPs a "simple change" in the law would speed up research which will lead to cheaper fuel, increased energy independence and the potential for thousands of jobs.

He wants the law changed so that underground gasification is dealt with under the Coal Act and ruled by the much more welcoming UK Coal Authority.

Prof Younger said: "If this law is not changed it will hold us back by a minimum of five and possibly 10 years or longer.

"It is a simple change, a one sentence change to you or I and yet it is putting this research at risk.

"What we need now from our MPs and from local Government is for them to go to London and get this simple sentence amendment made to say this Petroleum Act does not apply to underground gasification, and then it will unlock the massive potential in the region for safe, green underground gasification and the jobs that would bring. …

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