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Wednesday, June 10, 1998 Published at 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK

Business: The Economy

Dash for gas or go for coal?

The Government is expected to crack down of the building of gas-fired power station

The developers of one of the biggest industrial sites in Britain have criticised a government minister for trying to persuade them to switch from gas to coal as their source of power.

The Baglan Energy Park, near Swansea, is the biggest undeveloped site in Britain.

It could create several thousand jobs in an area of high unemployment, and local councils and businesses have already started attracting industry there with the promise of cheap energy from a gas-fired power station.

The oil giant BP hopes to create 3,000 jobs at the park, which is on the site of its Baglan Bay chemicals complex.

[ image: Moves to save miners' jobs could hit others]
Moves to save miners' jobs could hit others
The government's priority, however, is the protection of what is left of Britain's coal industry.

The Welsh Office minister, Peter Hain, has urged the developers to opt for a coal-powered station, using the latest clean technology.

This has angered the backers of Baglan Energy Park, including the local Labour council. They talk of a tidal wave of opposition if the huge scheme is now blocked after money has been spent on it.

BP had been praised for its efforts to replace jobs lost through the run-down of its Baglan Bay site.

But ministers are worried that if one scheme like the Welsh one is allowed, people behind others will take legal action against the government if they are turned down.

The government's review of energy policy is to be published next week, but the BBC's industry correspondent, Stephen Evans, says there is little doubt that the block on gas will continue.

On Tuesday, an influential group of MPs had criticised the government for blocking the building of new gas-fired power stations. The Trade and Industry Select Committee said there were no grounds for the policy, which is designed to protect coal production.

Critics claim that the Government is protecting miners' jobs at the expense of employment elsewhere in the economy.

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