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What Controversy, Mr Harrabin?

January 23, 2021

By Paul Homewood



h/t Philip Bratby


Yet another flagrantly biased article by Harrabin, who apparently cannot even count up to seven now! (Clue – there are seven questions, not six, Roger).



Pressure is growing on the prime minister to ban a new coal mine in Cumbria.

The county council approved the colliery, and the government decided not to challenge the decision.

But green groups have written to Boris Johnson saying the mine undercuts his promise to lead the world away from coal.

A spokesperson for islands at risk from climate change urges the PM to match his words with deeds.

Why is the mine controversial?

A firm applied for planning permission to dig for coking coal in Cumbria, and councillors approved the bid. They said the scheme did not contravene planning rules and would help diversify jobs.

But coal is seen as the dirtiest of the fossil fuels driving up global temperatures. The British government heads a UN climate summit in November and has launched the ‘Powering Past Coal’ alliance of nations to relinquish coal.

Fiji is an alliance member – and its UN ambassador Satyendra Prasad told me opening a new mine sends the wrong signal.

"Investment in renewables in place of coal is the morally correct choice. In the global climate struggle, words are extremely important. Deeds matter even more," he said.

Titus Gwemende from Oxfam in Southern Africa, said: "The UK continues to dig more coal while the least contributors (to climate change) in Africa face pressure to stop. This double standard risks undermining climate talks – and I hope the UK will change course."

So why didn’t the government block the mine?

This was a thorny decision. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick could have over-ridden the council, but amid the turmoil of the January Covid lockdown, he put out a notice saying he would not block permission because it was a "local" issue. Environmentalists were furious, defining climate change as the ultimate global problem.

Robert Jenrick

The government later told me there were no grounds to block the application under planning law. A spokesperson said leaving the decision to the council aligned with the Tory principle of having decisions taken at the lowest possible tier of government.

Was the government under pressure to approve the mine from its own MPs?

Yes. The mine lies in the Copeland constituency in a cluster of so-called Red Wall seats won by the Conservatives from Labour. Cumbria has low unemployment (2.8% from July 2019-June 2020 compared with 3.4% in Copeland and 3.8% nationally), but the MPs argued that well-paid manual jobs shouldn’t be turned away.

The local Copeland MP Trudy Harrison is the prime minister’s bag-carrier Parliamentary aide – and it’s hard to conceive that she did not drop a word in his ear, although she wouldn’t talk to me about that.

Are the local MPs prioritising jobs over climate change?

They insist they’re not. The key to the debate, they say, is that the mine will produce coking coal, which is needed for steel. The government is phasing out thermal coal for power stations by 2025 but has not announced any plans to phase out coking coal.

The advisory Climate Change Committee says the UK must stop burning coking coal by 2035 in order to hit climate targets. I understand the committee fears if the mine goes ahead its owners and workers will lobby irresistibly to keep it running after that date.

But the MPs fear that technology to create virgin steel using non-coal methods such as hydrogen won’t be ready by 2035. Mark Jenkinson, Tory MP for nearby Workington, told me: "It’s better for the environment to dig coking coal from Workington than from Wyoming, because it saves on emissions from transport. We can’t let other countries pick up the tab for emissions on our behalf."

What do environmentalists say?

Environmentalists have long called for a moratorium on new fossil fuels, because already far more has been discovered than the world can burn without causing dangerous climate change.

When John Sauven, from Greenpeace, heard that approving the mine was considered a ‘local’ decision he said: "Let’s hope China doesn’t take the same view – or the world will be toast".

He’s written to Boris Johnson saying: "As host of the largest global climate talks since the signing of the Paris Agreement, it is mystifying that a new coal mine has been approved.

"This will make it much harder to fulfil the ambitions of the alliance to phase out coal. We call on you to reverse the decision".

Labour’s Climate Change lead Matthew Pennycook agreed. He said: "This makes a mockery of the government’s claim to be a climate leader, and won’t provide the long-term job security Cumbrians deserve.

"Decarbonised steel is the future and Ministers should be relentlessly focused on developing an active industrial strategy that will attract good, low-carbon jobs and investment to counties like Cumbria."

The Lib Dems and Greens agree.

Did the pressure from MPs influence the decision?

Political considerations are not supposed to influence the planning process, and Mr Jenrick’s spokesperson said he didn’t consult other ministers in order to avoid breaching that rule.

No 10 tells me the PM was not involved in the decision-making process. The president of the upcoming climate summit, Alok Sharma – who co-ordinates government climate policies – dodged a question from MPs whether he had been consulted.

But Business and Climate Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng later said he discussed the mine with colleagues.

The fact that the mine will produce coking coal was a factor, he said.

But he wryly admitted that allowing the mine would create a "slight conflict" with climate policy. Mr Sharma agreed that the issue could be seen to be "embarrassing".

Did anyone do wrong?

No one is suggesting that any of the politicians misbehaved – but it’s clear that the issue is extremely embarrassing.

The government could avoid future pain on the issue by introducing a clear policy on coking coal.

One thing’s for sure – as the UN climate summit looms closer, the government’s ambitions across the board will be increasingly scrutinised to see if it’s walking the climate walk.


I’m not sure what this pressure is that Harrabin is talking about. A letter from some of his eco chums hardly amounts to diddly squat..

To most people, the decision to go ahead with the mine is a no brainer. To do anything else would be green virtue signalling at its worst.

Nowhere in his article is there any recognition of the benefits that the new mine might bring, merely a few snide remarks from Harrabin, who has clearly made his mind up already.

Why are there no actual facts in the report, to allow readers to make their decide for themselves? Such as how much coking coal we are currently importing and where from:


Why is there no mention at all about the number of jobs the mine will bring? 


And why does he allow the Greenpeace nutter, John Sauven, to get away with this mendacious comment:

Let’s hope China doesn’t take the same view – or the world will be toast".

Don’t either of them realise that this is exactly what China is doing?

And why no comment from the County Council or the mine owners, who might provide a counter view? Or the steel industry, who might explain that there is no way currently that you can make steel using hydrogen.

Instead we get some drivel from the Labour Party, which shows exactly why they lost their northern seats at the last election. (For anyone in any doubt, the blue wall had nothing to do with Corbyn. Northern working class voters have been deserted by Labour ever since Blair’s days, and the Brexit betrayal was the final straw. And there is no way they will vote for that slimeball Starmer either, who was at the heart of that betrayal.)

Instead all we get is Harrabin’s panderings to his green cronies.

Maybe the BBC should be reminded that their job is to report the facts objectively, not to provide a platform for their reporters’ political views.

  1. January 23, 2021 10:55 pm

    Countries’ wealth depend on harvesting subterranean and submarine assets amongst a few other sources of riches.
    The scares anticipated by climate catastrophists are not happening.
    If minerals can be safely mined, nothing must be allowed to stop hat.

    The Greens have nothing useful to offer in this context, or most others.

    Remember the UK is broke though that is just an extra stimulus to national wealth production, constantly essential.

  2. ianprsy permalink
    January 23, 2021 10:56 pm

    The juggernaut rolls on. This will be a good test as to whether we have a real government or a branch of Greenpeace running the country.

    Paul, you say: “And why no comment from the County Council or the mine owners, who might provide a counter view? Or the steel industry …” – I assume this is because the answers would confuse the Useful Idiots who read this rubbish.

  3. howard dewhirst permalink
    January 23, 2021 11:20 pm

    If high quality coking coals are banned, what will we (China) make our solar panel glass, from Mr Harrabin, not to mention the steel for those panels and for wind turbines ?

    • saveenergy permalink
      January 24, 2021 1:46 am

      Sorry Howard,
      solar panels use Aluminum & a few steel bolts
      Coal coke is now only used for low quality glass,
      petroleum coke is also used as the powder spray is more controllable but the main fuels are oil & gas.
      The glass used in solar panels will be melted by gas/oxy or electric.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    January 23, 2021 11:26 pm

    Yet another outing for the old-faithful on a Harrabin0based post:

    • January 24, 2021 8:44 am

      Surely, Harrabinobiased?!!

    • tom0mason permalink
      January 24, 2021 10:34 am

      And as Joanne Nova’s page says when that graphic was first used —

      The BBC, supposedly the public owned broadcaster, had a meeting with 28 climate experts in Jan 2006 where it decided on its policies on climate coverage. It led to the extraordinary move of the BBC abandoning any semblance of impartiality (a principle that’s so important it’s written into its charter). In the meantime, the BBC did everything it could to hide those influential experts names. It’s been nearly seven years since the seminar, but now we know why their names were top secret. No one is even pretending this was about “the science”. The BBC has become a PR wing of Greenpeace.

      [from ]

      The now is BBC the PR wing of Greenpeace. It therefore should be defunded due to mismanagement and not staying true to the charter it is supposed to uphold.

      • tom0mason permalink
        January 24, 2021 10:37 am

        oops, I’m a bit under caffeinated at the moment, that should be

        Now the BBC is the PR wing of Greenpeace.

      • Up2snuff permalink
        January 24, 2021 3:31 pm

        Don’t worry tomo, it came out all a bit Shakespearian like. 🙂

  5. Gamecock permalink
    January 23, 2021 11:29 pm

    I am reminded of the story of Rep Davy Crockett (pioneer, patriot, died at the Alamo), speaking to Congress ~1830:

    “I killed 106 bears in 8 months.”

    Another Congressman jumps from his seat, and yells, “That’s a lie!”

    “I know it’s a lie, Crockett, cause YOU CAN’T COUNT TO 106!”

  6. John permalink
    January 23, 2021 11:37 pm

    ”We can’t let other countries pick up the tab for emissions on our behalf.”
    We did it for the chemical, aluminium and ceramics industry and if eejits like Harrabin have their way this. .. .

  7. January 24, 2021 1:07 am

    It’s getting harder and harder to get away with the climate babble while Paul is watching. Glad to be on this side of the fence.

    • Chris Morris permalink
      January 24, 2021 1:26 am

      The thing is they can lie because there is no instant pushback in the mass media. Even when they are forced into a retraction, it is months down the line and couched in such terms that no-one knows what they are talking about.

      • January 24, 2021 1:37 am

        Good point. Well made. Thank you. The media driven public opinion tide is not with us. It is against us.

  8. It doesn't add up... permalink
    January 24, 2021 1:28 am

    There is of course no such thing as decarbonised steel – that would simply be iron. Carbon is a key alloy element that turns iron into steel. Hence the use of coking coal in making it. Other elements can be added to make different steel alloys with particular properties, but they often rely on formation of carbides – i.e. the carbon content – to achieve them.

    Remelting scrap steel in an arc furnace uses graphite anodes – more carbon!

    • dennisambler permalink
      January 24, 2021 3:03 pm

      An interesting piece on steel making from New Zealand:

      “Can the world produce steel without using coal? The short answer to this question is no, not at scale, at the present time.

      If we don’t supply our coking coal, customers will purchase elsewhere, often from producers with lower environmental standards.

      That means the steel will still be manufactured, there would be no net gain for the global environment but New Zealand jobs would be lost. Sadly, this reality appears lost on Wellington’s policymakers.”

  9. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    January 24, 2021 2:39 am

    I have nothing much to add to what is already here. An interesting post; thanks.
    I do note that the map used via the UK gov-site is the sort that could appear in an update to “How to Lie with Maps” by Mark Monmonier.
    High Latitude areas are exaggerated – for example note giant blue Canada and smallish darker Columbia. Another issue is using the various National boundaries rather than the source areas within. Because these are not actually relevant other than implying transport costs (& CO2 emissions), the tabled data are recommended.

    [Just now, I had to replace the battery in my mouse/pointer. I wonder how many of these are used world-wide per year. Five or 6 for me.]

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 24, 2021 1:09 pm

      N&J: There was a classic of this phenomenon – lying with maps – when the Met office used to supply the BBC TV weather-forecast maps. They kept the maps true to scale. But the Scots were in uproar because the map of Scotland looked so insignificant on the screen. The solution was for the BBC to enlarge the area covered by Scotland when it was on screen.

      • January 24, 2021 3:17 pm

        Only the “ScotNazi” Party wets its nappy with contrived fury when they think their hate publicity will be helped by their girning, grumbling and boring utterances.

        “Uproars” do not come from more-educated Scots perceiving storms in teacup, unintended slights.

  10. NeilC permalink
    January 24, 2021 6:59 am

    When the BBC and especially Harrabin stops using anything made from carbon will be the day I rejoice. Lying, hypocritical bar-stewards

    • tomo permalink
      January 24, 2021 10:42 am

      I’d make ’em pay for the Oxygen they’re stealing….

  11. January 24, 2021 7:49 am

    Harrabin is past retirement age. One might have thought that with all the BBC’s financial woes they would have got rid of him by now. As an English graduate he has no competence in anything to do with science or engineering, let alone energy and the environment. I also suspect that he graduated from the Diane Abbott school of advance mathematics.

    This is just more BBC propaganda showing yet again their bias.

    • tomo permalink
      January 24, 2021 10:44 am

      He graduated from covering Sunday morning amateur football at a no-mark local rag.

  12. January 24, 2021 7:55 am

    “Decarbonised steel”? In other words iron.

  13. 2hmp permalink
    January 24, 2021 8:06 am

    Harabin spouting more hazardous material.

    • tom0mason permalink
      January 24, 2021 10:42 am

      Thanks 2hmp,
      🙂 You made I laugh! 🙂

  14. Vrager 1 permalink
    January 24, 2021 8:20 am

    That’s just the problem. Every new electric car results in tons of CO2 in its manufacture that requires huge mileages to be run before catching up with CO2 emitted by an existing car. Batteries and rare earths, plastics and smelting metals all require fossil fuels to extract, process and transport… something omitted from the “zero carbon” fantasy calculations

  15. Coeur de Lion permalink
    January 24, 2021 8:30 am

    OT but it’s just started snowing heavily here in Hampshire UK. I must telephone my son to check he’s seen it. Where is Dr Viner when you need to grab him by the shoulders and scream into his face “what’s your next prediction, you smug, self-important, self-congratulatory, absurd warmest? Down on your knees and apologise”.

  16. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 24, 2021 8:46 am

    Australia would love to export more coking coal to the UK.
    Very handy for steel production (which, as readers but not the Greens, know is necessary for steel production). Using hydrogen won’t work.

  17. Coeur de Lion permalink
    January 24, 2021 9:26 am

    I’ve done my sad best by complaining on numerous occasions about Harrabin (and Shukman) saying that the contempt he draws in the blogosphere is bad for the image of the BBC. This deserves another. The reply will be much delayed (by the sheer volume of complaints?) and will be ‘a mixture of ignorance, shallow sophistry and disdain’ as usual.

  18. Cheshire Red permalink
    January 24, 2021 9:39 am

    BBC making the news by their editorialising, not simply reporting the facts. Business as usual, then.

  19. GeoffB permalink
    January 24, 2021 9:52 am

    Over to Princess Nut Nut for the final word then…….Approval withdrawn, we must look good for COP26.

  20. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 24, 2021 9:55 am

    It’s simply lies. Coking coal is not “the dirtiest fuel”. Its coking coal. Harrabin is either utterly ignorant on this or deliberately misleading his readers.

    • tom0mason permalink
      January 24, 2021 2:58 pm

      Harrabin is utterly ignorant and deliberately misleading the reader.

  21. Cheshire Red permalink
    January 24, 2021 10:55 am

    ‘Government create 250 jobs in Northern job blackspot.’
    I suppose that’s not a headline the Green blob wanted to see.

  22. MikeHig permalink
    January 24, 2021 11:11 am

    There are efforts underway to develop “zero-carbon” steelmaking. The Swedes have a small pilot plant in construction. The process uses “green” methane and hydrogen from renewables. If all goes well it might be commercial by 2030 – 35, along with fusion!
    Even if it works, that will be the same hydrogen as the CCC plan to use for heating, FCEVs, etc..

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 24, 2021 11:52 am

      As I understand it, it’s just a rolling mill, using the hydrogen flame to keep the steel hot enough to e rolled. Not making steel, but just shaping it.

      • MikeHig permalink
        January 27, 2021 3:16 pm

        Idau; I picked that up from the HYBRIT website which claims:
        “In 2016, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT – an initiative that endeavors to revolutionize steel-making. HYBRIT aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with hydrogen. The result will be the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.

        During 2018, work started on the construction of a pilot plant for fossil-free steel production in Luleå, Sweden. The goal is to have a solution for fossil-free steel by 2035. If successful, HYBRIT means that together we can reduce Sweden’s CO2 emissions by 10% and Finland’s by 7%. “

  23. January 24, 2021 12:54 pm

    Excerpt from BBC Environment Correspondent Manual

    Page 122 paragraph 3

    How to write persuavive environment articles for the BBC

    a) Be sure to begin your headline with “Government under increasing pressure” or similar. In fact, the pressure is entirely that stirred up by you. “Controversy” is a good choice of word if you can find a few people to criticise a policy.

    b) Ask know-nothings, inconsequential people, hypocrites, those who have drunk the green kool-aid, representatives of foreign parties… in short, flip through your Rolodex and call everyone who might give a juicy soundbite that agrees with you.

    c) If someone disagrees with your position, don’t panic! Just don’t put that part in the report. No-one will know.

    d) Remember the golden rule. We don’t need to have a “denier” on for balance. We only ask for opinions from those we agree with.

    e) Ensure the liberal use of value-loaded terms. A good example is to always describe coal as “dirty” fuel, or the “dirtiest.” In this way we can create an emotional reaction in our readership, and drive them to support renewables in opinion polls (don’t forget to call renewables “clean” at every opportunity, ditto hydrogen).

    f) Ask wide-eyed innocent questions that nevertheless raise the possibility of nefarious activity or intent among your opposition. A good example is the apparently harmless question: “Did anyone do wrong?” Of course we know no-one did wrong, but it does not hurt to prime your audience to think they might have done or might do so in the future.

    g) Do not include balancing facts or opinions in your article. We have already mentioned the importance of keeping “deniers” out of the public eye. The same applies to mainstream voices who for some reason do not see things your way in this instance. You will only muddy the waters if you put forward any “pros” to the “controversy” in hand. We want our readers to be crystal clear about what we think is the right thing to do.

    h) Hand-wave vigorously to pretend that there is an alternative, workable plan to the one you are criticising. You will find yourself citing unproven technologies or even “unicorn” solutions. Don’t worry! Your readers won’t have a clue, because they get their information mainly from us. It’s important that they come away with the impression that there is an alternative “clean” solution, even if there isn’t.

    i) In the event that the “increasing pressure” creates a government U-turn, or climbdown, revisit your contacts to find soundbites to the effect that the change was tardy, a sign of weakness, of flip-flopping, weather vaning, etc, & that the new position is hardly any better than the old, so that the “controversy” is maintained, and we have simply moved the goalposts closer to our preferred outcome.

    j) Remember, and this is most important, we want people to trust the BBC.

    • Duker permalink
      January 25, 2021 12:07 am

      Great points. The best satire is that which has no hint of it.
      But back to the story, a sound bite is from Fiji- no mention that they import fossil fuels for about half of their energy generation with diesel predominating. And they are lecturing the UK ?

  24. Penda100 permalink
    January 24, 2021 3:55 pm

    But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheeple burst out in a tremendous bleating of “Renewables Good, Fossil Fuel Bad, Renewables Good, Fossil Fuel Bad, Renewables Good, Fossil Fuel Bad”
    And by the time the sheeple had quietened down the moment for protest had passed.
    Apologies to George Orwell, but he knew what he was talking about.

  25. January 25, 2021 9:07 am

    Sharma: “I’m apoplectic”…with synthetic rage, says ‘climate change tsar’.
    Oh dear, how sad 😂

    COP26 in trouble as UK Government split over new coal mine
    Date: 25/01/21 The Times

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