Can the region power ahead?

GIVEN the frequency with which Yorkshire finds itself on the wrong side of the so-called North-South divide, it would be churlish not to acknowledge the significance of two energy announcements yesterday which could have a transformative effect on the region’s economy.

Not only is there an even greater likelihood that the Humber Estuary will drive forward Britain’s offshore wind revolution that has untapped potential, but Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has now committed significant public funds to the creation of carbon storage technology at Drax power station in North Yorkshire.

The only regret is that it has taken so long to reach this stage – the special fund to develop carbon capture and storage technology, and accompanying underground pipelines, was instigated by one Ed Miliband when he was in this post five years ago.

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This time-lag explains why there are now so many concerns about the robustness of Britain’s creaking energy infrastructure – the stop-start nature of policy-making, including an ongoing battle of wills within the coalition itself, has distracted attention away from the fact that it takes time and money to prepare to develop new technology like this.

That is why Mr Davey’s words were so profound when he set out a roadmap for the future at Drax. He added: “I’m proud that the UK is at the forefront of developing carbon capture and storage – which could be a game-changer in tackling climate change and provide a huge economic advantage not just to this region, but to the whole country.”

This intervention’s significance should not be under-estimated. For once, the Government appears to be prioritising Yorkshire over Scotland when it comes to building new technology.

But this announcement has the potential to go further. It paves the way for Yorkshire, and Drax in particular, to produce low-carbon electricity. And there is an acceptance that the CCS facility should have the means to store the emissions produced by those traditional manufacturing industries which are struggling to conform to strict new rules and regulations on the environment.

If this investment makes it possible for these operations to continue, and means that Yorkshire has the potential to attract new manufacturers to the Aire Valley and so on because it has such world-leading technology, it will become a priceless “win, win” for this region. But it will depend on Mr Davey’s department being able to power forward with this important reform agenda.

Honouring a debt

FIVE years on from the financial crash and it is a reflection of the emerging economic optimism that there is renewed speculation about when the remaining nationalised banks will return to the private sector.

It is vital that George Osborne secures the best possible return for taxpayers. These are the very people who have paid the heaviest price of all for the banking industry’s past recklessness.

Yet it is also important that the Chancellor explores potential ways to recompense the one million Bradford & Bingley shareholders who were left out of pocket when his predecessor, Alistair Darling, took the questionable decision to nationalise the bank while he battled to rescue bigger institutions such as RBS and HBOS.

This decision appeared to contradict the information that the B&B published in the lead-up to its collapse. And it has been compounded by the secrecy that has continued to surround the decision-making process, despite the best efforts of campaigners and the political input of dogged Shipley MP Philip Davies.

No doubt they will welcome the fact that UK Asset Resolution has been able to pay £8.3bn of Government funding, but there is still a lingering view that they received a particularly raw deal. One way to ameliorate their grievances would be for them to receive free shares – and for a new-look B&B to retain its Yorkshire roots. As such, it would be remiss of Mr Osborne if he did not explore these opportunities.

Polar opposites

IT is hard to think of two such polar opposites as the diligent Irvin Shorte and the thief who attempted to steal the van he was working on, dragging him 100 yards down the road in the process.

While Mr Shorte was back at work just a week after a shocking incident which could so easily have claimed his life, the criminal concerned is unlikely to even know the meaning of the word.

David Cameron has spoken often of his desire to support the “strivers” in our society while tackling the “shirkers” – and the contrast between the two could not have been greater in this instance.

Despite suffering internal bleeding, self-employed Mr Shorte, a father-of-three, did not have the luxury of taking an extended break because he would have been left out of pocket.

The individual responsible for causing those injuries, however, is intent on making his money from inflicting misery on others.

It is to be hoped that Mr Shorte can enjoy some well-deserved time off at Christmas to recuperate – and that the would-be thief spends his behind bars.