Starmer's blanket ban on North Sea oil to cost thousands of jobs

Starmer’s plan to slap a blanket ban on North Sea oil and gas extraction will cost tens of thousands of jobs

  • The Labour leader was urged to ‘keep the lights on’ by rowing back on plans

Slapping a blanket ban on North Sea oil and gas extraction will cost tens of thousands of Scottish jobs, Sir Keir Starmer has been warned.

The Labour leader was urged to ‘keep the lights on’ by rowing back on his radical plans to ditch fossil fuels for green energy.

In a speech in Edinburgh yesterday, Sir Keir pledged to create a publicly owned Great British Energy (GBE) company to focus on renewables.

The new firm would have its headquarters in Scotland, although no specific location has been confirmed.

Sir Keir said there would be 50,000 jobs created in Scotland – although some 90,000 currently depend on the North Sea off- shore industry.

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer reacts after delivering a speech on Green Energy at the headquarters of Nova Innovation

Starmer flanked by after Britain’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves and Scotland’s Labour leader Anas Sarwar

Yesterday he insisted oil and gas would be ‘a key part of the mix for decades to come, until well into the 2050s’.

Labour’s North Sea Bloodbath Q&A

Under threat: Offshore oil work

What is Labour’s policy on oil and gas exploration?

Labour wants to ban any new licences being granted to allow exploration for new oil and gas fields in the North Sea.

But Sir Keir Starmer confirmed he would not overturn any licence granted before, and if, he gets the keys to Number 10.

That includes the controversial Rosebank oil field, expected to produce 300million barrels of oil. A licence for Rosebank is expected to be issued imminently.

The controversial Cambo oil field would also escape any ban as it has already started exploration work. The licence for exploring Cambo, believed to be one of largest reservoirs of oil in the North Sea, was extended by two years in 2022 despite angry opposition from environmental campaigners.

Sir Keir has also pledged to create Great British Energy (GBE), a publicly-owned company he claims will

distribute the benefits from renewable energy to ensure they are reinvested in the UK.


What is the current situation with extracting fossil fuels in the UK?

Of the 283 active oil and gas fields in British waters, 180 will be shut down by 2030.

With Labour insisting it will not issue any more licences for oil exploration, the oil and gas trade body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) says a combination of ‘political uncertainty, the soaring cost of borrowing and the aftermath of Covid’ is having a catastrophic effect.

OEUK figures found 196 wells decommissioned in 2022, down from 124 the year before Exploration digging in the UK is also ‘at an all time low’ with only four or five wells opened in each of the past three years.

Searches for new fields have so far discovered just two in 2023.


How many jobs are at risk?

Of the 200,000 jobs that are estimated to rely on the North Sea energy sector, 90,000 are based in Scotland.

Labour insists it will not jeopardise ‘good jobs’, but will only promise to create 50,000 new jobs as part of its energy policy which will cost £28billion per year by the end of its first term in power.

However, oil and gas trade body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) pointed out that 180 of the 283 active fields are due to be shut down by 2030.

Furious critics claimed the damaging proposals were ‘too much, too soon’ and not grounded in reality.

OEUK chief executive David Whitehouse said there was ‘no simple choice between oil and gas on the one hand and renewables on the other’.

He said: ‘The reality is that to keep the lights on and grow our economy, we need both. Labour’s proposed ban on new exploration licences is too much, too soon.

‘It would be damaging for the industry, for consumers and for the UK’s net zero ambitions. North Sea supplies are essential to energy security – and we need new licences just to slow the natural decline in current levels of production while we build the low carbon systems of the future.

‘By the mid-2030s, oil and gas will still provide for 50 per cent of our energy needs.

‘Consumers and businesses won’t forgive anyone who shuts down Britain’s oil and gas industry only to replace it with imports of foreign oil and gas.’

During his speech, Sir Keir tried to convince Scots his ‘green energy revolution’ would not abandon them but argued: ‘The moment for decisive action is now’.

He said: ‘Let me say directly to those people in Scotland nervous about the change this mission requires: I know the ghosts industrial change unearths.

‘As a young lawyer, I worked with mining communities to challenge the Tories’ pit closure programme. But deep down, we all know this has to happen eventually and that the only question is when.

‘So, in all candour, the reality is this: the moment for decisive action is now.

‘If we wait until North Sea oil and gas runs out, the opportunities this change can bring for Scotland and your community will pass us by – and that would be a historic mistake.’

Sir Keir added: ‘My offer, the Labour offer, is this; a credible plan to manage the change, protect good jobs and create good jobs. No cliff edges.

‘But at the same time, to harness the wealth that is in our air, in our seas, in our skies and use it to serve the interests of your community.’

Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said he supported Labour’s ‘big ambition on renewables, grid infrastructure and de-risking new technologies’.

He added: ‘However, it is completely overshadowed by a position on oil and gas which is not grounded in the realities of the energy transition and will drive away they very companies they want to partner with to make the UK a clean energy superpower.’

Mr Crighton added that a ‘cliff edge’ for oil and gas extraction ‘will decree decades of decline upon the regions which have powered the UK through the toughest of times’.

Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Liam Kerr said: ‘Despite his desperate attempts at re-spinning it in recent days, the Labour leader is sticking stubbornly to his disastrously-received and catastrophic position of banning all new oil and gas projects. 

Furious critics claimed the damaging proposals were ‘too much, too soon’ and not grounded in reality

‘That would cost tens of thousands of skilled jobs and destroy communities across the North East. That’s madness when we know that renewable sources don’t yet cover our energy needs – because it would lead to costly foreign imports of fossil fuels, increasing our carbon footprint.

‘Keir Starmer spoke of the need to remove Putin’s foot from our throat, yet his plan would give Russia even more influence over UK and European energy markets.

‘He claims that Labour is not turning off the taps in the North Sea and that there will be no cliff edge for oil and gas workers – but banning all new projects is the very definition of both these things.’

Mr Kerr added: ‘We all want a just transition to net zero – but there’s nothing just about abandoning skilled workers, while we’re still reliant on oil and gas.’

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