The chancellor dashed hopes in the renewable energy industry that it might figure in his talk of more public expenditure on big infrastructure projects. Instead, he cited high-speed rail investment, and said the government was "spending more on new roads than in a generation".
Osborne said that "creating a low-carbon economy should be done in a way that creates jobs – not costs them", but did not spell out how this should be done. He highlighted Tuesday's planning go-ahead for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, and a promise to take forward two new carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects as part of the UK's £1bn CCS competition.
Osborne reiterated his autumn statement pledge to give tax breaks to encourage shale gas development in the UK. "I want Britain to tap into new sources of low-cost energy sources like shale gas," he said, adding the government would set up a new shale gas field allowance. He also said he would like local communities to benefit from shale gas wells, an idea suggested by the energy minister, John Hayes, in an interview with the Guardian this week. "Shale gas is part of the future. And we will make it happen," said the chancellor.
The ceramics industry will be given exemption from a tax known as the climate change levy, the chancellor said, leading to smiles from Tristram Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent, where much of the industry is based. Osborne said that "some other industries" would also be made exempt, and that support for energy-intensive industries would be extended beyond 2015. The northern wing of the TUC union welcomed the news, saying the industry was a "key part of Teesside's economy and something unions have lobbied on too".
Cars and fuel
New incentives for ultra low-emission vehicles were promised, with two new company car tax bands to be introduced from April 2015 for cars with emissions of 0-50g/CO2 per kilometre. But as expected Osborne cancelled a planned fuel duty increase in September. In the past, he has cancelled several scheduled fuel duty rises, most recently a 3p rise per litre due in January.
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