INDUSTRY bosses and trade unions in the North East have reacted with anger to Sir Keir Starmer’s plans to block all new oil and gas developments.
According to reports over the weekend, the Labour leader is due to announce the ban next month when he outlines his “national mission” to cut the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels.
David Whitehouse, the Chief Executive of trade body, Offshore Energies UK described it as “no way to treat” the 200,000 workers in the industry, 90,000 of who work in Scotland.
He said Sir Keir had promised to “engage meaningfully” with the sector, but had not yet done so. He said that there was “deep concern” about the plan.
Ryan Crighton, from Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said the plan was not grounded in reality.
While Gary Smith, from the GMB Union — one of Labour’s biggest donors — said the plan would leave the UK more reliant on imports from Russia.
Reports of the plan first emerged in yesterday’s Sunday Times. A Labour source told the paper: “We are against the granting of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea.
“They will do nothing to cut bills, as the Tories have acknowledged.
“They undermine our energy security and would drive a coach and horse through our climate targets.
“But Labour would continue to use existing oil and gas wells over the coming decades and manage them sustainably as we transform the UK into a clean energy superpower.”
It follows on from comments made by Sir Keir at the World Economic Forum in Davos, when he said his government would not invest in oil and gas.
In their draft energy strategy, published in January, the Scottish Government said there “should be a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas” but stopped short of calling for an end to new exploration.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed new oil and gas exploration, with the North Sea Transition Authority recently holding a licensing round for oil and gas exploration projects.
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Mr Whitehouse said the industry supported the transition away from oil and gas, but that what Labour was proposing was not a transition.
“Today, 75 per cent of our energy comes from oil and gas. We're very fortunate that we've got a sector that produces about 50% of that. So fundamentally, we're providing a lot of the energy required today.
“But every single credible scenario for reducing emissions has a period of time in the next number of years where we will continue to use oil and gas.”
He said the existing fields being explored would “decline quickly” and without new licensing, the UK’s energy security would be undermined,
“If we have no further investment, you will see that import gap increasing. We're estimating that by the end of the decade, the UK will be importing over 80% of its oil and gas needs.
“That means we're taking oil and gas from countries which do not have the same commitment to climate change.”
“Today, the oil and gas sector employs over 200,000 people up and down the country. Yes, there will be jobs in the future but they're not there today,” he added.
“If we undermine the oil and gas sector today we undermine the key supply chain companies that not only service the oil and gas sector but are needed to deliver on the renewables.
“If we undermine this sector today, what that will mean is we will import the energy transition. So the jobs that should be being created here in Scotland, here up and down the UK will not be created here, we will simply import them to the detriment of the UK and to the detriment of Scotland.”
Writing in the Times, Mr Crighton said: “Our politicians consistently forget the ‘net’ in net zero. We will still need oil and gas beyond 2050. And if we are to do that in the most efficient way possible, that needs new North Sea fields.”
Mr Smith, general secretary of the GMB, said there was “no point strangling the industry.”
“We need to work with the industry to encourage investment in the green technologies of the future," he told the Financial Times.
“It would be self-defeating not to maximise extraction from our own oil and gas, and that’s going to be a difficult debate but it’s one we’ll have to face down."
“There’s ethics involved - are we going to keep funding these regimes in the Middle East and the likes of Russia, or do we take responsibility for our own carbon and create jobs and investment here?”
The proposal was welcomed by campaigners, Just Stop Oil. "We will hold Labour to this promise, and continue to push our genocidal government to drop their indefensible policy of new oil and gas," they tweeted.
🚨 BREAKING: Labour to announce it will stop all new North Sea oil and gas.
💬 A @Labour source said to The Times:
– new licenses “do nothing to cut bills” + “undermine energy security”
– new investments in renewables will create 500,000 new jobs.
🦺 Direction action works. pic.twitter.com/oULCCnGoDq
— Just Stop Oil (@JustStop_Oil) May 28, 2023