Hundreds of new licenses for oil and gas extraction will be granted by the British government. The goal is to increase British energy independence and protect over 200,000 jobs in this industry. This comes as a result of peaking energy prices following the war between Russia and Ukraine. Therefore, British households have to cover the rising energy costs, despite the UK’s large oil and gas reserves in the North Sea, while private energy companies have billions in profits. Furthermore, future licensing rounds will be jointly undertaken by the government and the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), making the application process more flexible.
According to the NSTA, it is estimated that domestic gas production has a carbon footprint of around one-quarter of the imported one. As said by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, “Even when we’ve reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas. But there are those who would rather that it come from hostile states than from the supplies we have here at home.”
However, the environmentalists accused the government of abandoning its climate promises and commitments, especially following the heatwaves and wildfires across Europe and North America, as well as new temperature records. As said by Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, “This is the wrong decision at precisely the wrong time, when the rest of the world is experiencing record heat waves. It is on the wrong side of a future economy that will be founded on renewable and clean industries and not fossil fuels. It is on the wrong side of modern voters who will vote with their feet at the next general election for parties that protect, and not threaten, our environment, and it is on the wrong side of history, that will not look favorably on the decision taken today.”
Moreover, the government also introduced carbon capture and storage projects in Scotland and the Humber, which will create 50,000 jobs and offset the emissions from the new oil and gas extraction projects. Therefore, the 2050 net-zero goal would still be achieved.