The government’s plan to grant hundreds of new oil and gas licences for exploration in the North Sea has sparked a heated debate.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has given the green light for the plan, with the first batch of licences set to be issued this autumn, followed by at least 100 production licences in subsequent rounds.
Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps has defended the decision, asserting that the new licences will enhance the UK’s energy independence and contribute positively to the nation’s economy for generations to come.
However, the decision has faced strong opposition from former Tory Cabinet minister Chris Skidmore, who led a review into achieving net zero.
Mr Skidmore criticised the timing of the decision, stating that it comes amidst global record heatwaves and goes against the international trend towards embracing renewable and clean energy sources.
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) has opposed the UK’s plan to expand oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.
Prime Minister Sunak claims it aids net zero emissions and energy independence, but REA disagrees, citing climate goal conflicts and decreasing carbon prices.
REA advocates for investing in renewables and a just transition to a low carbon economy for “real energy security”.
Jess Ralston, Head of Energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit stated that subsidising oil and gas companies for more drilling won’t reduce bills.
According to industry estimates, the North Sea will continue to decline regardless of government policies and there isn’t enough gas to significantly impact international market prices.