OpEd: It’s Time We Told the Truth on Energy. Oil and Gas Help the World Thrive

© Lukasz Z / Adobe Stock
© Lukasz Z / Adobe Stock

Prime Ministers come and go. Energy Ministers are appointed and promptly booted out of the job as if they were never there. Net Zero roadmaps are published, tweaked, and then eventually shelved by the Government and opposition alike. But amidst the permacrisis of Westminster, oil and gas continue to deliver for Britain with an efficiency and alacrity rarely witnessed in the corridors of power.

In its sixth decade of offshore production, the U.K. upstream oil and gas industry supports some 120,000 jobs across the country.[i] And according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, oil and gas firms will pay some £25 billion to the Exchequer between 2024 and 2027.[ii] Oil and gas are vital to our energy security too. Currently around half of our demand for gas is met through domestic supplies.[iii] And Vladamir Putin has very ably demonstrated what happens to your economy when you fail to make energy security a political priority.

If we “Just Stop Oil” the NHS would also stop. Plainly, it would come to a juddering halt. Not because of an energy crisis but because the NHS is one of the world’s biggest consumers of single use plastic. Without oil the NHS could not function, and millions of lives would be lost through infections and cross contamination.

The oil and gas sector is one of the jewels in the UK’s economic crown – and yet it is a sector seldom cherished by our political leaders. Not a day goes by without the sector being demonized by politicians and campaigners going all out for a cheap headline or two. It’s high time the sector delivered a clear, compelling message about the realities of oil and gas in 2024.

For the oil and gas industry 2024 needs to be a year of education. And this means not being shy in coming forward to communicate clearly on why the sector is so important in sustaining our very way of life. And it’s therefore incumbent on all of us in the sector to educate the general population, the political classes and most importantly those who educate our children on just how critical the North Sea is to our very existence.

The politicians need to start being honest and admit that if we stop producing our own gas and oil, all we will do is add shipping costs to delivering the product from other countries at a higher cost to the planet. Exporting our pollution does not help the planet, though it does make it easier to ignore and of course makes us less secure. Energy security should be at the front of everyone’s mind in this new pre-war era.

We must be honest too with our children about energy and what powers the world around them. Back in 2015 I was on a fact-finding mission for the British valve industry to learn the truth about shale gas in America. I was in discussion with a company and the subject turned to industrial placements and how important they are to educate the population. I agreed and said we also offered about 12 placements to school children per year. The gentleman in question looked at me like I was mad. “No, we don’t offer them to school children, that’s a waste of time. We offer them to the teachers,” he replied.

In a flash of the blindingly obvious I realized that I was wasting my time, it’s the teachers we need to educate, for they will have the biggest impact on the most people over the longest period of time.

In a world plagued by political instability, pirates and despotic dictators, U.K. oil and gas has been a reassuring constant. The sector’s success is a prerequisite of a strong economy and sound public services.  We must be proud to tell the truth to our children and children’s children on where we get our energy from.

[i] Oil & Gas in the UK | EITI (ukeiti.org)
[ii] https://neweconomics.org/2023/11/the-windfall-tax-was-supposed-to-rein-in-fossil-fuel-profits-instead-it-has-saved-corporations-billions
[iii] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/british-energy-security-strategy/british-energy-security-strategy#:~:text=improve%20energy%20efficiency.-,Oil%20and%20gas,gas%20that%20we%20use%20now.

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