Concerns remain over power station emissions

The Environment Agency has warned against building new coal-fired power stations without the technology to trap and store the carbon emissions they create.

The Environment Agency has warned against building new coal-fired power stations without the technology to trap and store the carbon emissions they create.

The government body's concerns follows warnings from green groups, scientists and other organisations against "unabated" coal power plants because of their impact on the environment.

The Environment Agency wants to see faster progress on proving carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology can work on a commercial scale.

In its response to the government's consultation on CCS, the agency said it was not enough simply to build power stations which could be fitted with the technology once it is available.

Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, said: "Building a new generation of coal-fired power stations without capturing the carbon emissions would lock the UK into using high carbon technology for decades to come - this is not an environmentally sustainable way of generating power given the challenges we face with climate change."

He said new coal power stations should be required to help demonstrate CCS, and should only be allowed to continue to run after a set amount of time if the technology is fully deployed.

The Environment Agency's comments come amid increasing concern from the environmental lobby about the role coal will play in future energy supplies - and in cutting carbon emissions to tackle climate change.

The debate has focused in particular on Kingsnorth, Kent, where energy company E.ON wants to build what could be the first of a new generation of coal-fired power stations.

Protesters have condemned the plans, which they say would derail attempts by the UK to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this month, six Greenpeace campaigners accused of criminal damage to the existing power station at Kingsnorth were acquitted after jurors accepted their defence they acted lawfully to stop damage around the world as a result of climate change.

Their trial had heard from Professor James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate change scientists, who called for an immediate moratorium on the building of new coal-fired power stations to halt the Earth's slide into environmental catastrophe.

But Business Secretary John Hutton this week said coal must play a role in the UK's future energy supply, saying there was "no sense in our turning our backs on coal. Let's keep cleaning it up, not ruling it out".

The government is running a competition for a demonstration carbon capture and storage plant to be built in the UK.

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