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The Government has “not forgotten” about protecting carbon dioxide (CO2) producers from rising energy prices, Jacob Rees-Mogg said after the Government was accused of “playing chicken” with the industry.
Labour MP for Cambridge Daniel Zeichner asked what support would be put in place for the producers once short-term measures, announced in October, run out in “a few weeks’ time”.
The Government temporarily relaxed competition law between CO2 users in October so they could prioritise deliveries to the food industry, which uses the gas to preserve and store food.
Questioning Commons Leader Mr Rees-Mogg, Mr Zeichner said: “High energy prices have many consequences, but one perhaps not always foreseen is on the producers of carbon dioxide, CO2, and in the run up to Christmas there was a real crisis.
“Government put in place some short-term measures but they are coming to an end in a few weeks’ time. Can we have a statement from a minister on what the Government is doing, because it appears we are playing chicken with our national security?”
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “The issue with carbon dioxide was one that came before in the autumn and the Government worked quickly to make sure carbon dioxide supplies continued.
“What I will promise to do is highlight his concerns to the Secretary of State (for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng), but I can assure him that this is not something Her Majesty’s Government has forgotten about.”
Approximately 60% of the UK’s CO2 commercial supply comes from one company, CF Industries, which closed down two plants as gas prices rose in the autumn.
The Government stepped in to keep production at the factories going and prevent food supplies from dwindling.
At the time, Mr Kwarteng said: “The Government’s quick and decisive action last week provided UK businesses and consumers with confidence that CO2 supplies are secure.
“Since then, discussions with industry to deliver a long-term solution have made good progress.”
CO2 is injected into the packaging of meat and vegetables to prevent bacteria from growing, and is also used in medicines.