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A new shaft being prepared for northerners?

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Registered: ‎31-07-2007

A new shaft being prepared for northerners?


The northerners are quite familiar with shafts, but perhaps not of the type suggested by Charles Moore in the Saturday Telegraph. 

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Bob cartoon
This pointless policy might pacify the city-dwelling green lobby, but it will alienate everyone else

Everyone – even Greta Thunberg – has a metaphorical carbon footprint, but I have a literal one. Each morning during the winter months (in rural areas, that’s late September to mid-May), I descend to the cellar, fill the coal-scuttle, and carry it up to my study. To my wife’s annoyance, my carbon footprint is often visible on the carpet.

By the warming flicker of the resulting coal fire, I write, among other things, this column. From my desk, I look out on our other source of particular, as opposed to central, heating – our wood-stack. If we did not keep the home fires burning, I would be too cold and therefore too cheerless to keep the supply of columnar ideas coming. So when a Conservative government decrees this week that our bituminous house coal will shortly be banned and my logs carefully adjudicated by inspectors to work out their noxiousness, I take it personally.

I say to George Eustice, the Defra Secretary responsible: “As recently as last December, I was urging readers to vote for your party because it seemed to take seriously the needs of people outside the metropolitan bubble. Yet this is how you repay me and – much more importantly – them! You invoked the needs of people in the North where, I hereby reveal to you, it is consistently colder than in London. Yet now you are almost literally freezing them out.”

“You also,” I upbraid him, “are supposed to be the party of rural voters and small businesses. You and your ministerial colleague, Rebecca Pow, sit for rural seats. Do you not realise that the open fire and the wood-burning stove are the centre of country dwellings and country pubs, with the wood usually supplied by local coppicing? Are you unaware that many immobile old people, who inhabit otherwise chilly houses that are expensive to heat, sit snugly by their open fires and are happier for it? Do you not know that houses with chimneys and working fires breathe better than those without, reducing bad air and damp and the respiratory diseases and depression which result?”

“Mr Eustice,” I rave, “when Good King Wenceslas and his page go out to rescue the poor man gathering winter fu-u-el, they bring him flesh, wine and pine-logs. Under this Government’s provisions, it sounds as if all three characters in the carol will be guilty of multiple crimes.”

Yesterday morning, to get a calmer view, I rang Steve Buckingham of Wadhurst Coal, our local coal merchant. Steve lugs down our cellar stairs the large sacks of coal on which we depend. He had already been dealing with calls from worried customers wanting to stock up for the coming emergency. He mildly professed himself “rather surprised” by the Government’s decision, which cuts out 30 per cent of his business by 2023. His fuels are 100 per cent British (Scottish, to be precise). He observes that the move away from the more polluting fuels to smokeless ones is happening anyway: it does not need the heavy hand of government.

Mr Buckingham’s wholesaler, Terry Smith, whose family company, G H Smith & Son, has been in the business for 150 years, expands on this point. Recently, he says, manufacturers have invented “semi-smokeless” fuels. A company called Oxbow has developed Red, a briquette of mixed materials with the “volatiles” driven off it. Customers regard Red as “a very good all-round fuel”, price-competitive with coal. Yet Defra’s new measures mean that Red and its semi-smokeless siblings will fall on the wrong side of the law. The natural move towards less polluting innovation will have been punished, not rewarded.

Mr Smith adds that supplies of naturally produced smokeless anthracite, mined in Wales, will be exhausted in the next 18 months or so. All the more need, therefore, for new manufactured products, including semi-smokeless. Instead, the government sledgehammer cracking the coal nut will cause needless collateral damage.

How will the Government police its own rules? Take the new ban on “wet” wood, either soaked or – more relevant – unseasoned. Will officials have to decide whether the bags of kindling sold at petrol stations contain less than 20 per cent moisture, as the new law requires? Will farmers dealing with fallen or felled trees get fingered if they burn the detritus at once? Will the November 5 bonfires, so popular in our part of Sussex, be vetted by men from the ministry before the Bonfire Boys can send them (the fires, not the men) up in smoke? Wouldn’t it be better to recognise that only an idiot burns wet wood, and let common sense do the rest? Will the very name Wadhurst Coal become illegal?

Obviously, it is better, wherever possible, to use fuels that pollute less and also – though this is more arguable – to seek ones which produce less CO2. (Carbon dioxide, we tend to forget, is not a pollutant, whereas the PM2.5 particles in coal and wood are.) But has proper work been done on actual harm attributable to our use of domestic coal and wood? Has enough allowance been made for the fact that rural communities are small and therefore the danger of concentrated pollution – the appalling feature of the old London smogs – is unlikely? I fear the way the Government is acting is part of a wider picture in which environmentalists, with their remarkable lobby power in Whitehall, are being privileged over citizens.

The many letters about flooding this week on the page opposite show that readers with direct experience of floods have come to believe that public policy ignores the practical problems. Instead, it is in thrall to wider green doctrines – the idea, for instance, that it is wrong to dredge big rivers. There is a sense that people who know, such as those who run the local Internal Drainage Boards, are ignored in favour of those who do not know, but shout loudly about saving the planet.

People also notice that almost anything can be done in the name of saving the planet and later rescinded without apology when it goes up the spout. The Renewable Heat Incentive in Northern Ireland paid people to install boilers fired by wood pellets without any ceiling on the amount of energy used and with sums greater than the energy cost. As a result, a province of two million people managed to burn through more than £500 million before anyone protested.

Similarly, as we are told to stop burning wood at home, the prices for ash trees to supply power stations like Drax are sky high because they count as “biomass” and so are considered virtuous.

Even more striking is the story of diesel-powered cars, which produce much less CO2 than petrol-driven ones. They were subsidised by Labour governments from 2001 until it was belatedly noticed that their particulate emissions were killing people. Now they are to be banned. But so, by 2035, is the production of all new internal combustion engines. And there is talk of an increase in fuel duty.

The Leave victory in the 2016 referendum, and its confirmation in last December’s general election, showed how dramatically the “people from somewhere” had rejected control by the “people from anywhere”. Yet the false doctrine of climate emergency is treating people from somewhere as if they were people from nowhere. If Boris Johnson is not careful, he will face both electoral and economic emergencies as a result.



No one has to agree with my opinion, but in the time I have left a miracle would be nice.
Aspiring Legend
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Registered: ‎04-11-2014

Re: A new shaft being prepared for northerners?


Very good. 🙂

Had a part delivery of firewood only yesterday as it happens and have now stacked it up in my home made wood store ready for next winter, so this nonsense about not burning wood or coal has really got right up my nose.

Our little wood burner is our main source of heating and placed central in the house. We do not have a gas or oil supply so tell me, if these Whitehall enviromental bandwagon warriors want me to stop burning renewable fuel, are they going to pay for a new stove plus all that goes with it?

I should cocoa there're not.

Wood is stored for a year where it dries and seasons, it's then stacked as needed in the porch and from there its stacked (in a smaller verision of that outside wood store) for use again as needed alongside the stove. So by the time I burn it, it's nice and dry crackle crackle.

This is 'ban plan' is in England of course, but no doubt the nanny Welsh Assembly will follow suit but they'll have a fight on their hands because much of the country is still very rural. London it is not.

Another version of those Rebecca riots?

Y'never know, any excuse to try on the wifes best dress! 😂



Locked and loaded n ready for next winter.

Wood laying in front for new fence out back... old one got blown down in that storm. ☹️ 



Don't limit the friends you haven't met with arguments you'll never have.
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Registered: ‎27-12-2019

Re: A new shaft being prepared for northerners?

As I understand it its not a ban, for now, but a polite request not to burn coal or damp wood, so I think you're Ok with what you are doing. The whole thing is bonkers as I am sure the Government were offering incentives to encourage people to buy wood pellet burning stoves. They did the same with diesel you'll recall, reducing the tax to encourage its uptake to only go "Oops, we shouldn't have done that", twenty or so years later.

Seasoned Champion
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Registered: ‎21-11-2018

Re: A new shaft being prepared for northerners?

As with most government decisions they are politically expedient.

Which means todays badly thought ot green solution made under

pressure from environmentalists and dodgy science becomes 

tomorrows planet destroyer - and must be vilified and taxed,

taxed, taxed I tell you.

Aspiring Legend
Posts: 13,301
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Registered: ‎04-11-2014

Re: A new shaft being prepared for northerners?

It does seem like action before thought for expediency.

Make policy, and then try to justify it afterwards.

Don't limit the friends you haven't met with arguments you'll never have.
Community Veteran
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Registered: ‎06-11-2014

Re: A new shaft being prepared for northerners?

Round here there are a lot of houses with open fireplaces still, and a number of them do burn some rather stinky coal, and one chimney which I can view form the living room window is often pooting out clouds of steamy wet coal smoke from having a bucket of the wet stuff chucked on it, but do I say they need to stop? Nah, it's the North East, coal mining built the region, and if people wish to stick with it until their dying breath, let them be...


I personally have no time for coal, the previous house had an open fire in which we burned "Ovoids", which were a smokeless compressed briquette of goodness knows what (they smelled like PVA glue when un-burned too!!), granted they were pretty clean burning compared to bog standard housecoal, but, the mess, ugh, the joke about the "carbon footprint" at the start of that article is 100% true, coal is a messy business, that's a given...


I'd much prefer to burn wood, because it simply is the best thing, it's 100% renewable, leaves little in the way of ash, is relatively clean in terms of handling & storage, and it's everywhere, so long as it is properly managed and not just clear-cut to pander to the yuppies of course, but that said, no fireplace or stove in this house, so no point my harping on about it, but I do have my firepit in the garden, into which goes wood, most of the time at least... 😁