Rio Tinto has mounted an energetic defence of clean coal, referencing Churchill and Neil Armstrong's moon landing in declaring it the only way to meet growing energy needs while reducing emissions.

The mining giant’s energy chief Harry Kenyon-Slaney told a business lunch that coal is a cheaper and easier source of fuel than anything other option. Coal-fired power was the only way to satisfy rapidly growing energy use in Asia, India and other developing countries, he said. “Put simply, that all-important…