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The Brown government, having previously stated that it is one of very few national administrations worldwide taking the idea of carbon capture seriously, has reportedly disclosed that its seriousness will not take the form of cash.

A Prime Ministerial adviser says the government will commit "tens of millions" to a pilot carbon-storage project, but industry analysts believe this will be only a small percentage of the setup costs.

The Times reports today that Michael Jacobs, a member of Gordon Brown's so-called "kitchen cabinet", gave the ballpark figure at a conference yesterday, saying it was "a very big commitment".

Industry figures quoted by the paper described the amount as "disappointing", suggesting that the added cost of a carbon-capture power plant compared to a normal one could be as much as £1bn.

Under future carbon-levy plans, such costly equipment might nonetheless make sense to coal and gas power operators, as releasing carbon to the atmosphere would become an expensive activity. CO2 produced in the new plants would be stored in such a fashion that it couldn't escape into the air, perhaps by pumping it into emptied gas fields. There are also hopes that the retrieved carbon might one day be of use, perhaps being combined with water to make petrol.

During a speech in January, Brown's business minister John Hutton said the UK was one of only three governments which took the idea of carbon capture seriously.

It appears that the power industry would have expected this to mean the government giving them money, rather than taking it away unless they develop and install capture equipment. Industry figures quoted by the Times thought taxpayers should be stumping up something more in the £300m area.

The government appears averse to subsidising most forms of power generation, stating adamantly that it will not chip in for its hoped-for new wave of nuclear power stations either. However, it does have a quota system for wind power, the Renewables Obligation, which has lately been described by analysts as "a bonanza" for wind-farm operators.

The Times report can be read here. ®

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