How growing oysters on whisky waste sends a message to Extinction Rebellion – Stephen Kerr

If the UK and Scottish governments work together to promote carbon capture and storage technology, this country could become a global leader in an important new industry while helping tackle climate change in a pragmatic and sensible way, writes Stephen Kerr MP.

Stephen Kerr says he prefers a more pragmatic approach to tackling climate change than Extinction Rebellion's controversial protests. (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Stephen Kerr says he prefers a more pragmatic approach to tackling climate change than Extinction Rebellion's controversial protests. (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

This issue of Climate Change has been a rallying call to many people who support the environment and I am very proud to have backed the UK Government in its pursuit of zero-net carbon emissions by 2050.

My local council in Stirling has also shown significant leadership with its declaration of a climate emergency. All levels of government are working together on this significant issue and while some people might still see the need to protest for action that accords to their ideas, I find the pragmatic and sensible approach of UK, Scottish and local government to be a far better way to get things done than to block streets and stop people from living their lives.

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This is an agenda that will need calm heads and thoughtful consideration as we develop solutions. That being said, it is also imperative we do not miss opportunities to act quickly.

Protesters blocking the road outside Mansion House in the City of London, during an Extinction Rebellion protest. (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

The possibilities to be world leading in the many sectors that will be created from this global policy drive are significant. We can create a growing and profitable green economy that will provide high-value jobs and opportunities if we are brave enough to embrace the technologies that will help deliver the green revolution.

Carbon-capture usage and storage is one such technology whose day will come. This is a technology that decarbonises manufacturing and energy generation plants and allows for the reuse of the carbon or for its storage. Carbon can be stored in the pockets that held the oil and natural gas that has fed our economy over the past 100 years. It can be reused in various innovative and exciting ways.

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It is in use in Dornoch to regenerate oyster beds with carbon produced from the whisky industry, a highly commendable match. Carbon is pumped over the oysters to encourage growth that is regenerating these historic beds. Carbon from power stations can be processed into carbon fibre, an increasingly important manufacturing material.

Of course this same process works with a host of other potential carbon-eating plants and animals to encourage growth. It is commonly understood that planting trees is good for the environment as they suck up carbon dioxide and turn it into plant matter.

CO2 pumped into greenhouses

The same thing can happen at higher levels of efficiency in hydroponics and aquaponics (which includes the production of farmed fish) when captured carbon is reused and turned into things to eat. CO2 has long been pumped into greenhouses on a commercial basis to boost production of fruit and vegetables. Simply using the CO2 that we don’t want in the air for food-production purposes is a far better way of achieving the same effect.

Carbon capture will allow us to decarbonise our economy. Government has shown some foresight on this, supporting Project Acorn off the northeast coast of Scotland. This is a transportation and storage system that takes carbon sequestered from processes undertaken at the Grangemouth refining and production plants to the gas fields in the North Sea.

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This has the advantage of stimulating the economy in places where it is reliant on the production of fossil fuels. It also uses the same expertise and technological innovation that this country has long had in its oil and gas fields.

We need more schemes like this. We need to become a global leader.

The opportunity to create a green economy and build expertise and technologies that we can export around the world is one that must be grasped with both hands. Yes, we need to be leaders in tidal, wave, offshore wind and hydro electricity generation. Yes, we need to be at the forefront of technologies like battery production for electric vehicles and heat exchange for housing and commercial premises. Carbon capture is fundamentally important as well and will help us to create the green future while maintaining economic growth.

Great opportunity

It needs vision and it needs backing. If we take this opportunity, the sky is the limit as we bring forward technologies that not only capture the carbon that is being generated from electrical and manufacturing plants, but actually removes the legacy carbon that is in the air and reverses the damage we are doing to our planet. If we take carbon from the air, we need to find uses for it and we need places to store it safely.

We need better government backing for the technology and a specific target for storage. The Commons’ Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, of which I am a member, recommended a 10 million-tonne storage target by 2030. This is eminently achievable with enough national will. Finance and support are the problems needing resolution rather than the actual technology that has been proved to work.

We need a joint government approach, like in the Scottish carbon capture schemes that I have mentioned where Scottish and UK governments work together with local authorities to develop these projects. By giving this commitment, we would give the investor community the certainty they need to prime this nascent industry.

We have a great opportunity to lead the world in this sector. Many other countries are looking at this and if we are to achieve net carbon zero quickly and affordably, we will need this technology to be developed. The United Kingdom will lead the way if our Government has the courage to push the technology and commits strongly to a carbon capture target. This will help create jobs, enhance manufacturing and, most importantly, help to deliver on the aim of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 or sooner.

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Stephen Kerr is the Conservative MP for Stirling