With its chimneys towering 200 metres above the industrial heartland of England, West Burton A power station is a relic of the fossil fuel age. When fired up, its boilers burn thousands of tonnes of coal each day, spewing out the carbon dioxide that’s warming up the planet.
After more than 50 years of operation, it will close next year, part of a global transition into green energy sources like wind and solar. It’s only rarely used, but for several days in September, it was this old, polluting facility that kept the lights on in the UK.
West Burton isn’t an oddity. Across the world, fossil fuels are making a remarkable comeback as a super-charged recovery from the pandemic boosts demand. For all the green energy promises and plans, that transition is in its infancy, and the world still leans heavily on fossils. It’s an addiction built up over two and a half centuries, and it runs deep.