David Cameron tours the BP ETAP (Eastern Trough Area Project) oil platform in the North Sea earlier today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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After years of inaction, the Tories need to go much further on carbon capture

Cameron has been squandering the UK’s lead in a technology with a large and growing global market.

This morning marked an important milestone on the road to the UK’s low-carbon future. In Peterhead, in the north east of Scotland, the government finally announced the funding for a detailed study to support Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on a gas-fired power station. The idea behind Carbon Capture and Storage is simple; CO2 is plucked from the emissions of a fossil-fuel burning power station, liquefied and then buried underground. By the end of the decade, it is thought that the Peterhead CCS project will capture 10 million tonnes of CO2 a year and bury it 2km beneath the floor of the North Sea. It will be the first gas-fired CCS plant in the world.

Earlier this month, the TUC – in conjunction with the Carbon Capture and Storage Association – published a report examining the potential benefits to the UK of this technology. The results are stark: 30,000 construction jobs, the widespread decarbonisation of Britain’s industrial sector and £82 knocked off the cost of decarbonisation on consumer bills. After three years of inaction, there are now tentative and welcome signs that the government is taking the potential of CCS seriously. But there is a serious risk that the government will fail to provide the necessary support for the technology, with the result that the Peterhead project and its coal-fired cousin in Yorkshire become engineering curiosities, rather than pioneers of a new industry.

The basics of Carbon Capture and Storage are sufficiently easy to understand that they can often generate “too good to be true”-style responses. Carbon capture devices are installed in large-scale emitters such as power plants and industrial facilities. The captured carbon is then sent down a pipeline into deep subsurface rock formations, where it is permanently stored. CCS plants continue to burn fossil fuels, but with 90 per cent fewer emissions, and the technology can be fitted to existing infrastructure.

As ambitious as it sounds, it is not the technology that is holding back the development of CCS in the UK. The science and the engineering are largely proven – the first-full scale CCS plant is due to open in Canada later this year, with a capacity of 110 MW. Instead, the key brake on this technology in the UK has been stalling government policy. Under the last Labour government, Britain led the world in CCS. Seven out of the 13 projects up for European grant funding were British and it was understood that a handful of pioneer projects would pave the way for wide-scale roll out.

But within two years of the coalition coming to power, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers warned that Britain was becoming an “also ran”. Support for the first wave of pioneer projects was cut from four sites to two. The government failed to leverage funding from the EU and promises of £1bn of capital funding support disappeared as the Treasury took the money back once an earlier CCS project at Longannet in Fife was shelved by Scottish Power. CCS projects were left to wither on the vine. By contrast, Labour have continued to champion the technology since moving into opposition, with MPs such as Ian Lavery leading a vigorous campaign and shadow secretary of state Caroline Flint making clear that CCS has a vital role to play in our future energy mix.

The issue for the UK is that to decarbonise power supply and keep energy intensive industries here, CCS is a necessity, not an option. Decarbonising without CCS is likely to cost the UK 1 per cent of GDP and, as the TUC and industry study made clear, add about 15 per cent to the wholesale price of electricity. CCS also allows us to retain a role for fossil fuels, whose qualities complement other technologies and contribute to a balanced and varied energy mix.

In addition, CCS offers perhaps the only means of decarbonising large emitters in the industrial sector,  which is currently responsible for 10 per cent of all UK emissions. But in order to reach 10-20GW of CCS by 2030 we will need 15-25 installations. By contrast, an optimistic estimate would suggest that, under the current government’s policies, we have a grand total of two installations by 2020.

This is now the challenge for the government – to develop the next wave of CCS projects that will follow Peterhead and the White Rose project in Yorkshire. These should be the vanguard for a new industry, not a pair of engineering oddities. That is why getting the long-term energy support arrangements, known as contract for difference, appropriate to CCS as well as other low carbon sources (nuclear and renewable power) is so important.

So far there has been little sign that the government see any urgency in this pressing agenda. As ever, the penalty to moving slowly is that you fall behind. The global demand for CCS dwarfs our own, with the International Energy Agency forecasting 946GW of capacity by 2050. Establishing the UK as a European hub for CCS will dramatically increase the chances that this 946GW is built using UK expertise and supply chains. David Cameron is fond of talking about our participation in a global race, but seems less interested in actually running it.

By stalling on CCS over the last two years, the Tories have put our climate change targets, jobs and the affordability of our energy bills under pressure. Meanwhile, they are squandering the UK’s lead in a technology for which there is a large and growing global market. Today’s announcement highlights the potential benefits of CCS, but also makes plain just how much we stand to lose if the industrial potential is not properly nurtured. It is going to take much more than an announcement to coincide with a cabinet meeting in Aberdeen to maximise the UK's opportunities to fulfil our potential in CCS. It needs the government to take a sustained and real lead, or the risk is that CCS will remain the neglected element of our lower carbon future.

Tom Greatrex is shadow energy minister and Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West

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One of the best things about football? It allows you to hate people

Every team has its hard man. Is there anything more satisfying than booing them?

Football as therapy. Football is therapy. It is hard to sit for two hours in a packed stadium with 50,000 people roaring and shouting and not forget all the boring, niggling things pelting your brain in your everyday life, such as: have I done the washing?

You see these otherwise staid and buttoned-up gents – QCs and consultants and editors – standing up, punching the air for joy, when a goal goes in. Or holding their head in misery and muttering, “F*****’ hell!” if it doesn’t. Would they do that in their office, in their chambers, in their normal, buttoned-up life?

Football is escape. Football is comradeship. You have a tribal loyalty, usually inherited, in which you are part of a greater whole, regardless of your age or background, and you can commune with all ages and classes. Following a football team means you belong.

One other aspect of being a football fan that is rarely acknowledged is hatred. Football allows you to hate someone, express it openly, stand up and boo. There’s a role for baddies in football.

I used to enjoy it at Spurs when they were playing Arsenal. The boos of derision started the moment Tony Adams appeared. And when he put his hand up to let the ref know that there was an offside, which he did all the time – even in the tunnel, probably, or on the coach – the Spurs fans went mad with fury and delight.

The abuse was fairly harmless: perhaps a few donkey noises. I’m sure that Adams was amused but otherwise unaffected by the jeers.

In the Sixties and Seventies, crowds across the First Division greatly enjoyed booing Tommy Smith of Liverpool. He looked like such a pantomime villain, with his dodgy, droopy moustache and pockmarked face. He was the ultimate destroyer, clattering everybody, priding himself on showing no pain, immediately getting up when he’d been thumped. “Tommy Smith was not born,” Bill Shankly used to say. “He was quarried.” We booed him but we all wished that we had him in our team. Did he not eat razor blades for breakfast?

There were so many of them at the time, almost all defenders, who got booed by rival fans the minute their names were read out. Chopper Harris of Chelsea was so named because he chopped them down. Vinnie Jones was sometimes called “Psycho”, but the nickname really belonged to Stuart Pearce.

Nobby Stiles was a weedy little scrap – how could he do any damage? But he did, kicking everyone. Jack Charlton was big and ugly, clumsy and lumpen. He looked like a hard man. That was his job.

You could also hate and boo players who you thought were fancy Dans, too clever by half, such as Cristiano Ronaldo in his Man United days, or players promoted above their talents, such as Gary Neville. Away crowds enjoyed chanting, “If Neville plays for England, so can I!” It wasn’t just that we thought he wasn’t much good, but that he was bossy and self-righteous, the foreman figure, considering himself to be a cut above the rest.

Graeme Souness was definitely a hard man. Though we booed, we could appreciate how clever and cunning he was. The same goes for Roy Keane. Every team used to have a hard man who got stuck in, made agricultural tackles, left his calling card, and other euphemisms for how his job was to scare the hell out of the other team. But where have they all gone? Players don’t kick other players up in the air like they once did. Even our centre-halves are ballplayers now, expected to play nice – John Stones, for example.

They don’t build them like Vinnie Jones any more. They breed them thin and weedy. Lionel Messi, the best player of our age, was known in his younger days as “the Flea”.

However, there is one present-day baddie roaming the Premiership, and he is a centre-forward. He looks like a hard man from an earlier age, with his stage moustache, unshaven jaws, lined face and deep-set eyes, always furious, always about to lash out, always protesting. Let’s hear it for Chelsea’s Spanish striker – Diego Costa. BOOO! BOOO! There, that feels better. 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood