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UK to ramp up oil, gas exploration

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-09-08 09:22

Britain's new prime minister, Liz Truss, has confirmed that the United Kingdom will ramp up gas and oil exploration in the North Sea, despite the nation's earlier pledge to decrease reliance on fossil fuels.

The UK government, which has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, said during last year's United Nations climate conference in Glasgow that there would be a "diminishing need for gas and oil over the coming years while we ramp up renewable energy capacity".

But Truss appears set on increasing domestic fossil fuel productivity as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to disrupt supply and spike prices.

"I want to see us using more of our UK energy supply, including more oil and gas from the North Sea," Truss said during her first appearance in Parliament as prime minister on Wednesday.

The comments will be welcomed by the British oil and gas trade association OEUK, which on Tuesday called for the rapid approval of more drilling licenses and investment in the oil and gas sector.

"Speedy progress by the government ... will be needed if we want to strive for energy independence," said Michael Tholen, the organization's chief executive.

Tholen also criticized a windfall tax imposed this summer on energy companies, several of which have enjoyed record profits thanks to the spike in fuel prices. Truss said on Wednesday that she was against repeating the move.

"I believe it is the wrong thing to be putting companies off investing in the UK," she told MPs.

But there is skepticism over whether North Sea exploration will have much impact on the current energy crisis. The UK Climate Change Committee, or CCCUK, said that new fossil fuel projects will take decades to drill, and will have a negligible effect on gas prices since the UK is interconnected with the global market.

"Our gas reserves-off shore or from shale-are too small to impact meaningfully the prices faced by UK consumers," the CCCUK said on Tuesday in an open letter to Truss. "The best policies for the consumer are those that support lasting energy security and a low-carbon, low-cost energy system."

Environmentalists expressed concern on Tuesday over the appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg as the new Energy Minister. Rees-Mogg has previously questioned if human-related emissions have an impact on the climate, and earlier this year he said the UK should both lift a moratorium on fracking and extract "every last drop "of oil and gas from beneath the North Sea.

"Jacob Rees-Mogg is the last person who should be in charge of climate and energy, at the worst possible moment," environmental campaign group Greenpeace UK said on Twitter.

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