Det er en nyhet som er vanskelig å fatte: Presset av høye energipriser går flere europeiske land tilbake tilkullkraftverk. Planen er å bygge 50 kullkraftverk de neste fem år, og flere er allerede under bygging.

But the return now to coal even in eco-conscious Europe is sowing real alarm among environmentalists who warn that it is setting the world on a disastrous trajectory that will make controlling global warming impossible. They are aghast at the renaissance of coal, a fuel more commonly associated with a sooty Dickens novel and which was on its way out just a decade ago.

Italienske Enel bygger et nytt kullkraftverk i Civitavecchia, til tross for at lokalbefolkningen sa nei i en folkeavstemning.

Over the next five years, Italy will increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent. Power generated by Enel from coal will rise to 50 percent. And Italy is not alone in its return to coal.

Svenske Vattenfall, der Eli Arnstad nylig ble styremedlem, skal bygge kullkraftverk i Tyskland. Tsjekkia får et nytt kullkraftverk – ikke så overraskende. Men Storbritannia skal bygge et kullfyrt kraftverk i Kent, det første på ti år.

På disse ti årene er kull blitt et fyord. Internasjonal opinion ser med bekymring på at det åpnes kullkraftverk i Kina og India hver uke. Men nå vil de selv bygge kullkraftverk. Er miljøbevissthet noe man kan kaste over bord så fort prisene blir høye nok?

European power-station owners emphasize that they are making the new coal plants as clean as possible. But critics say that «clean coal» is a pipe dream, an oxymoron in terms of the carbon emissions that count most toward climate change. They call the building spree short-sighted.

«Building new coal-fired power plants is ill-conceived,» said James Hansen, a leading climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. «Given our knowledge about what needs to be done to stabilize climate, this plan is like barging into a war without having a plan for how it should be conducted, even though information is available.

«We need a moratorium on coal now,» he added, «with phase out of existing plants over the next two decades.»

Enel, like many electricity companies, says it has little choice but to build coal plants to replace aging infrastructure, particularly in countries like Italy, which prohibit nuclear power. Fuel costs have risen 151 percent since 1996, and Italians pay the highest electricity costs in Europe.

In the United States, fewer new coal plants are slated to go on line, in part because it is becoming hard to get regulatory permits for those previously planned and in part because nuclear power is an alternative, politically unacceptable in much of Europe.

Ny teknologi vil fjerne de fleste miljøskadelige stoffene, men ikke karbon, den finnes det ikke teknologi som renser, og den er som kjent luktfri.

Enel sier de vil begynne utprøving av karbon-fangst og lagring i 2015 og håper på ferdig teknologi i 2020.

«That’s too late,» said Jeff Sachs, head of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Fangst er dyrt, og ingen vet om lagring vil fungere.

«Figuring out carbon capture is really critical – it may not work in the end – and if it is not viable, the situation with respect to climate change is far more dire,» Sachs said.

Europeans switching back to coal