Energy Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 12th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative 5:45 pm, 12th April 2016

My Lords, I agree that carbon capture is one of the keys to the future of energy and climate policy, because, if it can be done commercially and successfully, it will allow us to continue burning fossil fuels but in ways where the carbon is extracted. This is the case for continuing with fossil fuels, and perhaps slightly undermines the case of those who want to abolish fossil fuels altogether, because the whole point is that you can carry on if you have the technology.

Through your Lordships, I ask the noble Baroness who just spoke from the Liberal Democrat Benches whether they have thought about alternative and cheaper carbon removal technologies. There is carbon capture utilisation, which is developing in all sorts of new areas. It is beginning to look as though it can undermine the vast costs of piping carbon away into the North Sea. As we heard from the Minister, that would set back the problems in the North Sea, which are enormous and one hesitates to add any burdens to them, however important one may think the technology. So if there are cheaper ways of going forward, surely we should be going those ways.

That makes sense of what I understand from my noble friend to be the Government’s strategy, which is that the experimental efforts with carbon capture and storage in its full glory, with piping, transmission, finding places in the North Sea and overcoming all the vast technical and cost problems, can be replaced by something rather more imaginative. We may be moving in the right direction. My question is whether the Liberal Democrats have thought about those alternatives before pressing something which will obviously hurt the oil and gas industry in the North Sea at a time when it is already hurt very considerably.