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Petroleum Coke

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 1:49 pm on 19th March 1997.

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Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth 1:49 pm, 19th March 1997

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to prevent the use of petroleum coke for the purpose of electricity generation. [19442]

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

Any proposal to use a fuel at a power station must satisfy the appropriate regulatory requirements.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

Does the Minister deny that petroleum coke is a particularly dirty fuel? The licence that is currently being processed will be viewed with bitter disfavour in my region. Does he accept that, if that fuel is burned in Yorkshire, it will serve as evidence of the Government's disdain for our international environment commitments, and will show the critical nature of coal stocks. It will also provide a final commentary on the Government's deplorable handling of the British coal industry.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

I thank the hon. Gentleman for coming to the House and asking me my one question for today, rather than withdrawing a question that I was due to answer, as all the other Opposition Members have.

The Environment Agency has permitted the trial. It will regulate the trial throughout to ensure that it operates within authorisation, and will be able to withdraw authorisation if the trial exceeds any of the limits that have been laid down.

As for the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the decision to go ahead is a matter for National Power, not for the Government. We all know the mistakes involved in trying to second-guess industry; we also know the supreme results that are being achieved through privatisation. Domestic electricity prices have fallen by 4.6 per cent. in real terms since privatisation, including VAT, and prices for industry have dropped by 14.8 per cent. I know what that means, and the House knows what it means: it means lower costs, more sales and more jobs.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

The Minister talks of not second-guessing industry, but does he not accept that the amount of pollution caused by the various methods of generating electricity is a matter of public concern? Does he not accept that Government have a responsibility to devise a mechanism, whether through tax or by other means, to ensure the maximisation of clean sources of electricity production—whether through hydro, tidal or other sources—and to minimise the amount of electricity that is produced from dirty sources, especially those generating an undue proportion of carbon?

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

Let me say, as Minister in charge of the non-fossil fuel obligation, that only two weeks ago I announced the largest round of the non-fossil fuel obligation programmes. I sincerely hope that much more "green" electricity will be produced in this country. As for what the hon. Gentleman says about this type of fuel, I know that £1 billion has been spent on flue gas desulphurisation in the Drax and Ratcliffe plants, and I am certain that the Environment Agency will not allow generation to proceed if it produces the levels of pollution to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.