New fuel for economic recovery

Forget sevices – the only get out from the current mess is making products other countries want to buy. The good news is there are some really good ideas in the UK – like a new carbonless fuel for your vehicle at around a pound a gallon.

Manufacturing is the strongest asset the UK has, even if it has been decimated by years of neglect, financial raiding, unrealistic expectations and ridiculous regulations.

We have some other assets in terms of natural resources but too often they have been plundered for low value return (take for instance the use of North Sea oil revenue to underwrite Thatcher’s assault on the unions – she could largely ditch coal and pay for those displaced from the hated National Union of Mineworkers to sit at home, drawing benefits). In great part that revenue should have powered intense research to develop new technologies and modernise industry.

Instead the Thatcher years brought de-regulation of financial markets and grew the perception that everyone could make big money by dealing in paper and investing in property rather than creating real things of value to the world. “Get rich quick” has been the persistent expectation that has corrupted business activity and an acid that has eroded public morality.

Services are all too easy for other countries to copy. London as a financial centre will decline as the banking hubs of China and other vibrant economies become increasingly attractive. Yes, keep the financial sector as long as we can but do not rely on its long term health or wealth.

Politicians talk of the creative industries and their potential. Yes, but the odds alone tell us that among the teeming populaces of Asia and the Far East there are masses of highly talented creative individuals. Indeed, many of the UK players in the creative industries are now little more than front ends to designers, programmers and visualisers from the global scene.

Behind the scenes, there is brilliant research work being done in various UK institutions.

Take for instance the discovery of a new fuel at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford, now being developed by Cella Energy.

The fuel has no carbon components, and thus no global warming pollutants, being based on hydrogen. What is more, the indications are that it can be used in the sort of internal combustion engines that are to be found in current vehicles.

It is estimated the fuel would cost around a pound a gallon to produce and as long as the government was sensible about taxing it (there will be no excuse that high duties discourage carbon dioxide emissions), there is great commercial potential.

Business Secretary Vince Cable would be wise to get his department looking at the project – both he and you can find out a bit more from this page on the excellent Gizmag website.

If City bankers are to earn their bonuses, this is just the sort of investment they should be interested in. It might not produce a quick speculative buck but it would be a lot less risky than buying dubious debts as happened with the sub-prime markets that triggered the crisis.