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Britain Approves New North Sea Oil Drilling in Welcome News for the Industry but Not Activists

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Britain Approves Major North Sea Oil Project Despite Climate Change Warnings

The North Sea Transition Authority has given the green light for the development of the Rosebank field, a major oil and gas project located 80 miles northwest of the Shetland Islands. The decision, which goes against warnings from scientists and the United Nations about the need to halt the development of new fossil fuel resources, has sparked criticism from environmental activists.

The authorization comes at a time when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government is facing accusations of diluting its environmental commitments ahead of an upcoming election. The government recently postponed a ban on gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles and proposed relaxing water quality regulations for developers, following concerns over the cost of environmental programs.

Despite the criticism, the government argues that projects like Rosebank are necessary to support domestic oil and gas production, ensure affordable energy prices for consumers, and maintain “energy security” during the transition to renewable energy sources. The government maintains that while Britain needs to continue extracting resources from existing projects, it should refrain from opening new fields.

Caroline Lucas, the sole Green Party member of the House of Commons, described the decision to proceed with Rosebank as “morally obscene” in light of the escalating climate emergency. Lucas argues that while the project may not enhance energy security or reduce bills for consumers, it will enable foreign-owned fossil fuel companies to extract oil and gas from the UK and sell it at market prices overseas.

In July, Sunak unveiled plans to issue hundreds of new oil and gas licenses to safeguard jobs and enhance Britain’s energy independence amid declining production in the country’s aging North Sea fields. Production from the North Sea has steadily declined over the past 25 years, with May 2021 figures indicating a 75% drop from the peak in December 1996.

The Rosebank field is estimated to contain 300 million recoverable barrels of oil, making it one of the largest untapped deposits in UK waters. Norwegian company Equinor, which owns 80% of the project, plans to invest $3.8 billion in the venture, supporting approximately 1,600 jobs during the construction phase. The first phase of production is expected to begin in 2026-2027.

The UK government insists that Rosebank and other new projects will have significantly lower emissions compared to previous developments. It argues that continued North Sea production is crucial for ensuring domestic energy supply security and reducing vulnerability to another energy crisis similar to the price surge following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

The decision to proceed with Rosebank has raised concerns about the UK government’s commitment to its environmental goals. Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, warns that the recent decisions may create uncertainty for companies and investors focused on renewable energy solutions. Streeter emphasizes the importance of government support for the green transition.

According to research by Carbon Tracker, energy companies have approved $166 billion in investments for new oil and gas projects between January 2021 and March 2022. However, the United Nations’ panel on climate change asserts that countries must halt new fossil fuel exploration and production to limit global warming to no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres argues that fossil fuel industry transition plans should be transformational, guiding companies towards clean energy rather than perpetuating the use of products incompatible with human survival. He warns that failing to transition away from fossil fuels only contributes to further harm to the planet.

More detail via Washington Times here… ( Image via Washington Times )

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