A couple of weeks ago, the UK Prime Minister flew himself all the way up to Aberdeen on a private jet to cement himself firmly on the side of climate denial, announcing that 100 new licenses will be approved in for new oil and gas projects in the North sea. Since then, he’s only double downed on this, pushing forward with this disastrous plan.

Following the surprising Uxbridge by-election win for the Conservatives, there seemed to be a push to label those on the left who support things like the ULEZ scheme and pushing towards electrification of the road and public transport infrastructure as ‘anti-motorist’, which I do find a weird label. To counter that, Rishi and many in the Conservative Party are taking a step further to the right to show themselves as on the side of motorists.

To show that, the PM has decided that 20mph speed limits should be scrapped, low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) should be re-examined, and new fossil fuel extraction sites should be opened in the North Sea, arguing that doing so will reduce costs at the pump and on our energy bills.

The consequences of these actions, whether that’s road safety, air pollution or climate change, Rishi Sunak either doesn’t fully understand or just doesn’t care. If it might keep Rishi Sunak as PM and the Tories in power, or, as the story on Sunak’s wife’s company Infosys suggests, financially benefits them, then they’ll do it behind the smokescreen of doing what’s best for us.

What Sunak Announced in Aberdeen

With its location adjacent to the North Sea, Aberdeen is hugely reliant on the continuation of jobs in the oil and gas sector and particularly in the continued extraction of oil and gas reserves in the North Sea. The city would need significant investment to help it transition to cleaner jobs and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Which makes it the perfect place to confirm 100s of new licenses for oil and gas exploration giving companies like Shell and BP huge new areas to explore and extract huge oil and gas reserves. Following his announcement, Rishi Sunak tweeted out 4 points he believes come from the granting of new licenses:

  • Protect jobs
  • Boost energy independence
  • Unlock new projects
  • Reduce emissions

The blunt truth is that they’re all rubbish, particularly that last one.

No, Jobs Won’t be Protected

Over the short term, perhaps. But in the long term, jobs in the oil and gas sector are only going to drop as fossil fuel projects become more costly to manage in comparison renewables. Not only that, oil and gas in the North Sea is only going to become increasingly more difficult and even more costly to extract to the point where it will become economically unviable to do so. Renewables on the other hand are going to make it increasingly cheaper and easier to produce electricity.

A transition to renewable energy is inevitable whether that’s due to its legally-binding net-zero requirements or market forces making fossil fuel projects just too expensive without taxpayers majorly propping up the industry with tax breaks and investment. This Tory Government can delay it as long as it wants with the new licenses, but the tide is turning and the longer we continue pushing fossil fuels the more costly it will become!

No, it Won’t Boost Energy Independence

Sunak’s argument that this would provide the UK with energy independence is probably the most misleading point among many misleading points. There is no evidence or historical data to back the claim that the UK extracting oil and gas in the North Sea will lead to more being used in the UK. All oil and gas extracted by companies like Shell and BP will enter the global market and be sold to whoever they choose (likely those paying the highest price). There’s no way the UK government can oblige these oil and gas companies to sell to the UK.

In recent months, particularly since Covid, oil companies around the world have been making billions of dollars in profits every QUARTER. Shell posted its highest-ever annual profits of $40billion in 2022, BP made $28billion, Chevron $36.5billion – doubling profits in 2021. The figures are staggering and made even more unbelievable when we’re well aware of the impacts of the climate emergency.

Most of those huge profits were made following Covid and the invasion of Ukraine. Every one of us who needed energy to keep our homes warm and fuel our cars suddenly had to spend hundreds of pounds more just to do so, and the companies providing that fuel made vast sums of money from that. Some countries implemented a windfall tax on those profits and used that to help those struggling to pay gas and electricity bills, which to be fair to Rishi Sunak he did as well, but did also give oil and gas companies tax breaks at the same time…

Decimating Our Net Zero Goals

New oil and gas projects within UK waters would steer the UK further and further away from the its net-zero goals. The idea that opening up any new oil and gas sites, let alone 100 new sites, would do bring the UK closer to achieving its net zero goals is absolute insanity and there’s no evidence to suggest that this would do anything other than push us further away from those goals.

The UK was already limping towards its climate targets. Whilst some steps forward have been made, progress is in no way quick enough to achieve climate targets that have been set or achieve the net-zero goals and this latest announcement will only move the country further away, no matter how much the Conservative government gaslight us.

Sunak isn’t Pro-Motorist

The idea that Sunak, and other millionaires (or billionaires), are pro anyone who doesn’t match a similar wealth level to him. When fuel and energy prices rose massively, Sunak did nothing and continues to do nothing even as thousands of people struggle to pay fuel bills, as well as many other costs like mortgages and groceries.

Sunak, like many other Conservative MPs, are interested in doing nothing more than making themselves and their friends richer, that’s all they’ve ever done since David Cameron first took office. Pulling issues like the climate emergency and net zero into the culture war of “us versus them” does nothing more than to distract us from what they’re doing to benefit themselves.

We seem to be at a strange position with ULEZ and these new oil and gas licenses. Cars seem to be prioritised over human lives allowing them to freely pollute this country’s most heavily urbanised areas, and the idea that we should be funding cleaner energy sources rather than multi-billion dollar fossil fuel companies makes is eco-zealots. These companies made billions every quarter and now use that money to pedal further misinformation on any clean energy or pollution-reducing legislation that might affect them.

The idea that granting new oil licenses will have any kind of benefit to the broader UK public is complete nonsense. It delays all climate goals, it does nothing to secure the energy future of the UK, and only serves the interests of the fossil fuel giants like Shell, BP and any other company who have had licenses granted.

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