MP WRITES: Capturing new jobs

Michael Fallon
Michael Fallon

A constituent wrote to me last week to ask where the jobs of the future in the town will come from.

This is an incredibly important issue, probably the biggest we face.

Good well-paid jobs will improve the living standards of people living in Hartlepool, providing high disposable income and the tax receipts to pay for essential public services.

Failure to achieve this will mean problems of long-term and youth unemployment, the spectre of low and uncertain pay and a shrinking of the enterprise base in Hartlepool, something, which has blighted the town for many decades.

I am in no doubt that the town’s economic and employment future is based upon industry, focusing on high value manufacturing and engineering.

Much of that engineering expertise will be deployed on a diverse set of energy-related sectors, be it oil and gas, renewables and nuclear.

By building on our existing strengths, the town’s economy will thrive.

I mention a number of different energy sectors. This week the TUC published an ambitious and innovative document on the economic benefits of carbon capture and storage in the UK.

Mere mention of the TUC might ensure that some people will dismiss any report from them as dangerous, lefty claptrap that will cost us our industry.

Such prejudice would be misplaced. The trade union movement has, in recent years, been one of the successful ingredients for an industrial strategy, based upon long-term assessment of comparative advantage for our nation’s industries and a determination to enhance our competitiveness.

Jobs and factories in areas such as the aerospace and automotive industries would have been lost to Britain had it not been for the trade union movement, a fact that is very rarely portrayed in the media.

Carbon capture and storage is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from large scale emitters, usually industry and power stations, and transporting the gases in pipelines to very deep subsurface rocks, where it can be safely and permanently stored.

This is often under the oceans and seas and in many cases simply inputs a type of gas for another type of gas that we extracted in the first place to power our homes and industries.

The TUC report states that the use of Carbon Capture and Storage is the lowest cost route towards decarbonisation, especially without harming our industrial capability.

Interestingly, when a lot of the discussion in recent months has been regarding huge rises in energy bills, the report calculates that Carbon Capture and Storage, if deployed and operational by 2030, could result in a 15 per cent reduction in the wholesale price of electricity compared with an alternative scenario in which the technology is not used.

We in Hartlepool and the wider Teesside area, with firms at Seal Sands and Wilton, are well placed to take advantage of this. The TUC report states: “The UK CCS industry has potential to capture a high proportion of the market for engineering design, project management, procurement and commissioning activities, and will benefit from the potential cross-over with the skills currently used in the oil and gas industry”.

Every CCS plant is estimated to create about 1,000-2,500 jobs for plant construction, lasting 4-6 years, and then about 200-300 jobs to operate each plant and in its associated supply chain. The report specifically mentions the North East as an area of existing strength and potential which could lead this work.

When Ed Miliband was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, he approved funding for a pilot programme in Teesside to look at this technology.

The present Government stopped this and momentum was halted. I know firms in the area are keen to look at this.

It’s now back on the agenda, with Michael Fallon, the Business Minister who I formally shadow, telling me personally this week that he is keen to explore this further.

I want to see it succeed because I think there is huge scope for economic opportunity and employment creation in Hartlepool.