Ryan Crighton: Starmer’s plan to block new North Sea oil and gas projects is wrong

Ryan Crighton: Starmer’s plan to block new North Sea oil and gas projects is wrong

Ryan Crighton

Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce discusses Kier Starmer’s plan to halt new North Sea oil and gas initatives.

Big ambition on renewable energy is exactly what we need. Labour’s proposed energy strategy, revealed in The Sunday Times, has that in spades. However, once again we have a party threatening to undermine the energy transition with a position on oil and gas that is not grounded in the reality of how net zero will be delivered. Like the Scottish government this year, Labour has fallen into the trap of presenting the switch as a binary move from one source of energy to another, and suggesting that 200,000 plus workers will simply hop off their oilrigs and into a new green energy job.

The reality is far more complex and requires a pragmatic approach to domestic oil and gas production — one that is realistic about the time it will take to build projects and jobs in renewables, and one that is honest about the energy we use. North Sea production has already more than halved since 1999. In that same period, the amount of energy generated from renewable sources has risen, but not at the same pace, and energy consumption has remained broadly static.

This has left us ever more reliant on energy imports from other parts of the world. We have gone from being a net exporter of energy 20 years ago, to importing more than 30 per cent of the energy we use. We have fallen back to import dependency levels that we haven’t seen since the 1970s. Therefore, accelerating the decline in the North Sea simply means importing energy, particularly gas, from other countries. If the alternative is importing, at a greater carbon cost, then surely the UK should always favour domestic production, where we can control the regulatory environment?

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, we need new North Sea fields. Labour’s wrong-headed position on new development is unsurprising, given it has been drawn up without any engagement with the industry, or the region, which has been powering the UK for 50 years. Sir Keir Starmer has promised to come to Aberdeen, and he needs to make good on that promise in the coming weeks before this hugely damaging policy position further erodes investment in our energy sector.

The price of getting the energy transition wrong is 17,000 jobs in the northeast of Scotland alone, plus an £8 billion annual hole in Scotland’s GVA (Gross Value Added) by 2030. Labour needs to reflect hard on these numbers, talk to the people and companies at the heart of the transition, and come back with a sensible position.

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