07/02/2012 Newsnight Scotland


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Glasgow scientists think they had the answer. It is finally feeling


the heat from the banking crisis. There are questions over


competition on the High Street. A technology that could remove


greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and put oil back under the North


Sea. The Glasgow solar Fuels Group is a multi-million pound


collaboration. Its aim is to convert solar energy into new East


-- new fuels. The timescale? Before the oil runs out. First, our


science correspondent, has this report. The sun gives its energy


away for free. It heats up the atmosphere and makes the wind blow.


We harness that power. What is the problem? There are two problems.


Solar-powered may make it relatively easy to generate


electricity but it is difficult to store. Sometimes, when you need it


most, the wind stops blowing. Sometimes the sun shines, sometimes


it does not. The problem is with storage. When you make electricity


you have to use it straight away. Fuel gives you stored energy that


you can access whenever you want. Hour of work looks at Fotis entasis


- the one major chemical process on the planet - that takes renewable


energy in the form of solar energy and turns it into a fuel. That


seems straightforward enough. had two tubes set up. We had two


electrodes in water. We're putting electricity through the electrodes.


It is ripping the water apart. It is turning water into hydrogen and


oxygen. It is a very well-known reaction. The trouble with hydrogen,


it does not still well in large The airship, Hindenburg, was full


of hydrogen. We work inspired from discussions we had with our


colleagues in biology about how could be split water and tried to


make devices? We have a chemical that acts as a battery. We are able


to split water. Rather than producing hydrogen and oxygen at


the same time, we could lock hydrogen up in the water in a


special material and make the precursor for a fuel. If I show you


their fuel, it is an intensely blue coloured material. It looks like a


boil. Voters and the Sears is a highly inefficient process. Glasgow


researchers want to improve on nature. There are billions of


5th and will release the CO2 into the atmosphere. That is a


greenhouse gas. We combine it with carbon to create a new field. It


would also created, the big difference is that the carbon can


be used again to capture more solar energy. It would be a closed carbon


cycle. One source of carbon could be another emerging technology,


carbon capture. They are ideally placed for what they see as the


next step. We are making a fuel based on CO2, so we'll have a


proper cycle of carbon. You bring the atmosphere back into balance,


and that is exactly what we need. The major problem is that you can't


live an aeroplane on electricity. - - fly an airplane. You need fuel.


There is billions of carbon in the apse at this there. That match a's


atmosphere. You have a lot of pipelines, empty oil wells. If you


can produce a massive offshore wind, and use that electricity, you could


intercept summer that carbon, and activated. In the end, if you


imagine a cycle way you are able to replace the field today with some


light tomorrow, -- some light tomorrow, we have a balanced cycle.


We can put that CO2 back in the ground. We would safely store while


backing the will Wells. This is not science fiction, but it is not yet


signed spat. It will take tens of years, and billions of pounds.


have got the concept, we know we want to start from. We are doing


work on the various areas. We know we want to get to, but we don't


know how to get there. The excitement is to develop that


research, to actually do this. One of the things that we are doing is


to try and enthuse young people, so they come with the new ideas to


help us tackle this. The research required has been likened to a new


Apollo programme, it will need if Investment and political well.


Business and politics are notoriously short-term focus.


I'm joined by profession a league Cronin, who saw in that film. --


Professor League Cronin. The idea is to have a liquid fuel. If by an


understanding this correctly, the root problem is that photosynthesis


is very slow and inefficient, and what you need to do is to find a


she then engineered version? That is right. It produces feel, that


takes 100 years to get there, and we are burning her through that


right now. The idea is to take the sunlight, the energy that comes to


the planet every day, and can that that in real time. You have to


speed that up. Is that the bit that you can't do, or have you made any


advances? All of it is feasible. There are two major issues, you


have to use precious metal to do its. We are trying to remove those


precious metals. The second thing is that you have to activate the


CO2, that is tough,. We need to find some sides to make that happen


very fast. An issue in Scotland is that there is not much sun, there


is a lot of wind. How can we go from electricity to -- from


electricity to feel. We are also looking at using microbes. You can


plug them into a windmill, and you can get feel out of them. Are you


looking pattern in organic form? can do that, we have tried to make


the process more general, using electricity to take water out of


light. We can then ploughed back into renewable sources. -- plug


about him. The there is a bit of the cycle that I find fascinating.


If the use cost less energy to fuel the photosynthesis process, and the


use sunlight, even if you end up with hydrocarbon, if the energy


going in is less than you get out, because that is costless, that


wouldn't really matter? We could probably do this. It would be very


expensive, and we have a race, there is a waste to supply our


energy needs, burning fossil fuels, and putting carbon dioxide in the


atmosphere. We have to think about intermediate solutions. People want


to bury CO2, that is a questionable thing to do, because of all sorts


of issues. If we could bury it, and intercept it, to turn her back into


a fuel, we would take the fossil out of the field, and burning car


that does not give you a hangover. The other thing about this cycle,


it would be a bit like wood-burning, it is neutral? Exactly. You would


be using the field you end up with to displace the use fuel. It is


expensive to extract fossil feel. If you were leaving it there, your


idea would be a machine which extracts CO2 brother Alastair? The


second effect would be, if this was to work, we could carry on taking


that out of the atmosphere. At the very worst it would cause


catastrophic climate change, we could remove that, rather than be


other solutions. Realistically, given the problems you have


described, getting this photosynthesis to work, what sort


of timescale is it even feasible to talk about? It comes down to cost.


We are really well placed in the UK, and in Scotland, to start to ask


these questions, and bring together the right people. There is


political will in the UK and Scotland. Decades is in tears? --


isn't it? We are talking about 30- The news that the owners of the


Clydesdale Bank were reviewing the business immediately raised fears


of significant job losses. Up until now the bank has avoided the worst


of the banking crisis by opting for more conservative lending. Now its


parent company, the National Australia Bank, says it can't go on


as it is, in a decision that could have far reaching consequences for


banking on the high street. Clydesdale Bank has always been


seen as a bit staid and boring. In the context of what has been


happening at the other banks in Scotland, it is a bit of a


compliment. The Clydesdale plodded along and no one paid it a blind


bit of attention. It has been clear that all is not as simple as it has


seemed to. Its Australian owners wanted to restructure or sell the


bank. There was talk of selling at 20 British bank and then talk of a


credit downgrade. National Australian Bank topped up the


reserves of Clydesdale and its pension fund and the banks stopped


lending in the risky commercial property area. This needs to be


seen in the broader industry context. Santander has taken over


several hundred RBS branches. Northern Rock has been sold to


burgeon Macro. If Clydesdale is on the market, it could become a


significant player. That clearly would not work if it was sold to


Lloyds of RBS, who already have many Scottish branches. Barclays


and HSBC do not. There are businessmen on the prowl looking to


be Britain's next generation of bankers. Last night National


Australia Bank said it did not think that Clydesdale was


sustainable as it is so something has to give up. With me now is Dr


Robert Webb, a banking and economics lecturer from Glasgow


Caledonian University. Given these various statements and given that,


in effect, Clydesdale was put up for sale last year and they could


not agree terms, do think that is the most likely outcome? I do not


think anyone knows what will happen. They are trying to position the


bank to sell it off to the highest bidder. One strategy presumably


could be to cut it back. They are trying to pull out of the business


banking arm where they are not making any profits. Once they have


realigned into the retail business, there will have a look at a new


purchaser. This is in context of a new shake-up in high-street banking.


The whole sector is finding funding very difficult to come by. Funding


has increased in cost and they are having to look at each business


summer make sure everything makes a profit. Just for those of our


listeners who are not bankers quite you presumably a talking about the


borrowing that a bank makes in order to fund lending... What


lenders are concerned about is that it -- be stability of the funding


from mainly deposits. They wanted to be long-term and stable as


opposed to the capriciousness our financial markets. They need to


make the maximum return from each of their sectors. And not use what


Vince Cable uses the casino bit. The problem is everyone is playing


the same game. They're trying to get into long-term funding.


seems to be an ambition of the Government in London, who


incidentally probably will not thank National Australia full


blaming the Government's austerity policies as one of the reasons they


might want to get out of Britain... Based seem to want a new major


player in the High Street. It looks like the colour or takeover 700


branches of Lloyds HBOS. -- the Co- op could takeover. I am unsure. I


do not know how they will increase competition given the regulations


from Europe and from the Vickers Report published before Christmas.


I do not know the answer to it. I do not know who will purchase


Clydesdale to make it competitive. The people who were before where


these new groups of individuals. They were openly interested.


problem is that Clydesdale making decent money out of the retail arm.


It is in commercial property they are losing. The retail arm, if


someone is going to take that, they will still find conditions quite


difficult. What you're saying about difficult conditions, with Tesco's,


everyone thought they were the obvious players. They have said


they're not introducing a current account for 12 months. Where they


finding it difficult? Costs are rising. -- why are they finding?


The return via making from their assets are falling. -- they are


making. In the Herald: It says there has been a huge drop in blade


the fences. In the Financial Times, it is about the big mining merger


which is threatened. In the Independent, a last ditch fight to


save the NHS reforms in England. I Good evening. It is turning into a


bitterly cold night. It could get as low as minus 15. A very cold


start to the day. They could be snow flurries in the east. A bright


start in the North of England. It will feel cold. Other smirk in the


south eastern corner. There will be a raw north wind. It will be a fine


and bright day with long spells of sunshine. It will be cold,


especially in the breeze. More strength to the sunshine. It will


probably feel a bit less chilly. A bit milder compared with the rest


of the country. The same in northern and western Scotland. The


south and east of Scotland should be dry and bright. Into Thursday,


will notice some rain. Temperatures will start to lift up. Not much


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