Grant Shapps has reaffirmed the government’s support for domestic fossil fuel projects, while slamming Labour for appearing to embrace a ban.
In a heated parliamentary session, the energy security secretary once again hit out at Labour’s push to stop new North Sea projects as “bonkers”, while confirming the UK’s continued embargo of Russian fossil fuels.
“Our system was well supplied last winter by North Sea gas and reliable imports. This is a far cry from Labour’s energy surrender plan sponsored by Just Stop Oil, which would put us back to square one and in the hands of despots like Putin and his tyrannical regime,” he said.
Just Stop Oil is a protest group which has is calling on the government to ban new oil and gas projects to slash carbon emissions and meet the UK’s net zero goals.
Is Labour doing Just Stop Oil’s work?
While JSO has no official links to Labour, however Shapps has repeatedly tried to link the group to the opposition, frequently referencing green energy tycoon and Labour backer Dale Vince’s financial support for the activists.
Shapps has previously said the UK must have a balanced energy supply, which includes “where necessary, oil and gas licences.”
“To do without them puts the security of every single person in this country at risk, and means household bills will go up. Sadly, that is the policy of His Majesty’s opposition,” he said.
Labour has announced it will not sanction new oil and gas projects, citing concerns from climate groups it would jeopardise the country’s climate targets.
Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband also argues it won’t drive down bills for consumers – especially compared to renewables – and that the North Sea chiefly exports its supplies, undermining its role in the country’s energy security.
Shapps also fired back criticism from departing Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who hammered the government’s continued support of new oil and gas licenses as a “disaster for the climate.
“Her party’s and Labour’s policy of importing all the oil and gas we require by not providing new licences is simply insane. It means every single family will be subject to the next tyrant like Putin, it means the carbon use would be double that which is taken from the North Sea. Its bonkers policy,” Shapps said.
UK energy mix in a global context
The International Energy Agency, has also warned the West should not approve new projects if it wants to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – including containing global temperature rises to below two degrees of pre-industrial levels.
The role of oil and gas in the UK’s energy mix has become especially controversial with the imminent approval of Rosebank – the largest undeveloped field in the North Sea potentially home to 500m barrels of oil and gas over its development lifetime, which is being overseen by Equinor and Ithaca Energy.
City A.M. understands it is on the verge of being green-lit by regulators Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning and the North Sea Transition Authority, and that Shapps is not expected to contest the decision.
An open letter was signed by 60 organisations including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace – organised by BankTrack and Uplift- calling on banks including JP Morgan and Barclays financing Equinor to push the company into ceasing its developments plans for the project.
Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, said: “Money talks, and these banks need to join the growing chorus demanding that Equinor cease its plans to expand oil and gas drilling. Their climate commitments, if they have any integrity, bar them from funding Rosebank