UK government faces backlash over new North Sea oil and gas licenses

Picture courtesy of Ben Wicks, Unsplash

In a controversial move, the British government yesterday declared its intention to release “hundreds” of fresh licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, aiming to bolster national energy reserves while still vowing to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This announcement has incited a wave of criticism from environmental groups and has fuelled an ongoing debate within the ruling Conservative Party on its green policies.

In contrast, the primary opposition party, Labour, promised a halt to the issuance of any new North Sea drilling licenses if it triumphs in the upcoming General Election due next year.

Downing Street clarified its stance in a statement, saying…

“Investment in the North Sea will continue to unlock new projects, protect jobs, reduce emissions and boost UK energy independence.”

Global energy prices skyrocketed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year, as Western nations retaliated with stringent sanctions against Moscow, notably affecting its vast oil and gas exports.

During a visit to Scotland, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stressed that the decision to licence feeds into their transition strategy towards net zero. He expressed that even if the UK manages to achieve net zero by 2050, approximately one-fourth of its energy requirements will still depend on oil and gas, reported Bangkok Post.

“What is important then is that we get that oil and gas in the best possible way. And that means getting it from here at home better for our energy security, not reliant on foreign dictators, better for jobs… but also better for the climate.”

In a report released yesterday by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), it was found that the carbon footprint from UK’s gas production was four times less than that from imported liquified natural gas.

Environmental groups, however, expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision. According to Greenpeace, it was a “deliberate attempt to polarise the climate debate in the UK and score cheap political points.”

Also yesterday, the government confirmed its plans to establish two additional carbon-capture points along the North Sea coast, at Acorn in northeast Scotland and Viking near Humber, England, in addition to two already in the pipeline. The government estimates that these four clusters could potentially support up to 50,000 jobs by 2030.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the multinational company involved in one of the carbon capture projects, praised it as a crucial part of plans to decarbonise North Sea operations. However, some climate experts have voiced concerns over such technology, indicating it is a distraction from the crucial drive to phase out hydrocarbons.

Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth, said…

“Talking up carbon capture and storage is an obvious attempt to put a green gloss on the prime minister’s announcement.”

As the British General Election approaches amidst a cost-of-living crisis, climate activists have accused British leadership of neglecting climate policies and using the issue for political advantage.

World News

Alex Morgan

Alex is a 42-year-old former corporate executive and business consultant with a degree in business administration. Boasting over 15 years of experience working in various industries, including technology, finance, and marketing, Alex has acquired in-depth knowledge about business strategies, management principles, and market trends. In recent years, Alex has transitioned into writing business articles and providing expert commentary on business-related issues. Fluent in English and proficient in data analysis, Alex strives to deliver well-researched and insightful content to readers, combining practical experience with a keen analytical eye to offer valuable perspectives on the ever-evolving business landscape.

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