Can carbon capture make coal king again?
Could clean coal be the key to our future energy needs?
With grave doubts about the future of nuclear power, there may now be renewed focus on alternative ways of supplying our future energy needs.
And one option takes us firmly back to the region's past - coal.
But 21st Century coal also needs something new to make it environmentally-acceptable in an age where global warming is a big issue. It needs carbon capture.
This is a technology that would see the carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants fed into rocks under the sea to avoid it being pumped into the atmosphere.
Billions of pounds of funding are available to schemes which could develop carbon capture and storage technology.
One bid has come from a consortium which includes Alcan in Northumberland, which is looking to cap the existing power plant at its smelting works.
But another is for a new coal-fired power station in Teesside.
If the bidders can make carbon capture work, it could create valuable jobs and even eventually see the re-opening of coal mines in the UK.
It could also help plug the energy gap that will develop as old nuclear and coal-fired stations shut.
But some believe that is a big if.
Green campaigner Jonathon Porritt believes carbon capture will not plug the UK's energy gap.
He believes we are already a long way behind China in developing the technology, but he also doubts that carbon capture can work.
And he isn't alone in that. The Green Party believes it is an unproven technology which might leave future generations with a legacy of carbon dioxide that could leak into the atmosphere or the seas.
It does not want to see any development encourage nations to mine and burn more coal.
And even if it is achievable, critics point out that it is not cheap - adding between 20% to 30% onto the costs of generating electricity according to some estimates.
Instead, many environmentalists would prefer to see the focus on renewables and energy conservation in homes and businesses.
But the search for solutions to our energy needs has never been more complex.
Jonathon Porritt, who has always been opposed to nuclear energy, also thinks the last week's events have put the last nail in the coffin of plans for new power stations in Britain.
He believes the crisis in Japan will force any nuclear power station to be loaded down with even more expensive safety devices to reassure the public.
That will make them even more uneconomic, and make it even less likely that private investors will fund them.
And as the Government says no public subsidy will be available for new nuclear, the future could be bleak.
So there still appears no easy long-term solution to keeping our lights on. Some still have real doubts about how big a contribution renewables like wind, tidal and biomass could really make.
Using much less energy might be one way of helping, but how big a sacrifice would we all be prepared to make?
The Politics Show will be discussing carbon capture and our future energy needs on BBC1 at 12pm on 20 March.