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Statement about coal mining interests in Northumberland

I have had enquiries about my interest in coal mining, and am happy to make the following statement:

The following has been on my website since its inception:

“I have a financial interest in coal mining on my family’s land. The details are commercially confidential, but I have always been careful to disclose that I have this interest in my writing when it is relevant; I am proud that the coal mining on my land contributes to the local and national economy; and that my income from coal is not subsidized and not a drain on the economy through raising energy prices. I deliberately do not argue directly for the interests of the modern coal industry and I consistently champion the development of gas reserves, which is a far bigger threat to the coal-mining industry than renewable energy can ever be. So I consistently argue against my own financial interest.”

In response to recent inaccurate reports, I can add further detail:

“I have declared my interest in the coal mining on my family’s land whenever and wherever relevant both in my writing and in Parliament. However, I generally argue in favour of gas, which is coal’s main competitor, and do not argue directly in favour of the modern coal industry, though I have commented on the role coal has played over the course of history. There is a long and proud tradition of coal mining in the North-east of England. The coal under my family’s land belongs to the state, being nationalized, so royalties go to the government, not the landowner. Only part of the coal mining operated by the Banks Group at the Shotton and Brenkley mines is on my family’s land. I do not own or operate the mines themselves. I consider the mining operation an excellent local employer, which provides affordable energy to UK industry and electricity consumers, without subsidy, and in a situation where the UK imports the majority of the coal it burns. It also contributes generous taxes as well as funding welcome environmental benefits and numerous community projects. I receive no financial benefit other than a wayleave fee in exchange for providing access to the land. The details are commercially confidential and involve several parties, but the wayleave is very small indeed in relation to the value of the coal mined from my family’s land. It is partly shared with local residents and the remainder, after paying tax, is almost entirely reinvested in the maintenance and improvement of the property. The coal industry has never tried to influence my views on climate science or policy.”

By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  rational-optimist