Britain should go hell-bent for North Sea gas and wind

What we should be doing – even for net-zero reasons – is the exact opposite. The UK should cut taxes for the sector or conjure incentives to accelerate production in offshore waters. Oil and Gas UK say there is potential over the next year or two from the Saturn Banks field off Norfolk. Rapid approval for the larger Jackdaw field off Scotland could plug a large hole in the mid-2020s.

But we should also speed up the switch to home-grown renewable power. These objectives are not in conflict: gas and wind fit hand in glove. By all means let us have nuclear power from small modular reactors – if they are cheap enough – but SMRs are a faraway story for the 2030s.

It would be rank idiocy to eliminate the green levy used to promote home insulation, since energy efficiency is the quickest and cheapest way to cut dependency on imported gas. The cost should be taken off fuel bills and covered by general taxation. O’Shea is right that this design-flaw needs urgent correction.

Labour and Liberal Democrat proposals to gouge what remains of the offshore drilling industry with a windfall tax need harsh interrogation.

We obviously cannot do without gas, given the legacy structure of home heating and power plants. We need it to buttress intermittent renewables: it is clean and “dispatchable”, easily fired up at a power plant when needed.

Gas is the COP-approved “bridge fuel”. It compliments the UK’s offshore wind expansion, and it is the feedstock for “blue hydrogen” (with carbon capture) needed to kick start the transition towards pure green hydrogen by mid-century. Labour wants Britain to become a world leader in hydrogen but seems not to understand how we get there.

Is Labour aware that imported LNG has a hair-raising carbon and methane footprint? New satellite data show that methane release from wildcat fracking sites in the US can be 10 or 20 times higher than from the best-practice sites of European oil and gas majors such as BP (I am a shareholder), Shell or Equinor. Siberian gas flowing through the leaky Soviet-era pipelines is just as bad. You might as well burn coal.

Methane has 84 times the greenhouse intensity of CO2 over 20 years, which is why it rocketed to the top of the agenda at COP26. If you worry about climate tipping points, you worry about methane.

Gas for LNG has to be transported to terminals, cooled to minus 162°C, shipped as a liquid across oceans, then turned back into gas. OGUK says the carbon footprint is 55-60kg of CO2 (barrel equivalent), compared to 20 kilos for North Sea gas. Even fracking in Lancashire would be better than this – and cheaper – but which fool would invest in British fracking after the shabby treatment of Cuadrilla?

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