I always like seeing my chums from Wyre Forest Extinction Rebellion. A group came by a couple of weeks ago and we had a long meeting, discussing North Sea exploration licenses. They swung by a week later for a bit of a protest, but I wasn’t there.
To be clear, I completely agree with their objectives and goals. I value engagement with any number of groups in Wyre Forest, including (especially) those with interests in our environment. But, whilst we agree on the long term, the road to climate change reversal is one with many different options.
The government has set out targets for decarbonisation, setting in law net zero by 2050. In fact, we are a climate change leader, with the biggest reduction in emissions of any country. But in getting to net zero, there are a few truths.
The first is that use of oil and gas will not suddenly drop overnight. We will continue to use oil and gas for some time, and we import most of it. So we have a choice: Do we take the option of producing more locally, or continue to import. Let’s look at the implications.
XR’s choice is import. I disagree. Importing oil and gas leads to an unnecessary increase in carbon emissions on the simple fact of transportation. Oil tankers burn fuel and gas pipelines are hard to build.
Meanwhile, those oil and gas companies producing in the UK are subject to UK taxes – and that includes windfall taxes. Produce locally and we generate tax receipts that are invested into subsidies for things like heat exchangers and insulation. Import and we get no tax receipts from the producing companies, merely paying away the value of the taxes to other producing countries.
And then there is energy security. We are seeing the cost of freight – including oil – soar as the Red Sea challenges force a new trade route around the Cape of Good Hope. And the 200,000 people who work in our oil and gas sector might have something to say about the jobs they will lose. Not all of them will find employment in the renewables sector.
So the political choice has been made. We all want to move towards green, renewable energy. Its in the law. But getting there is about protecting families from spiralling energy prices and making the most of the financial opportunity. After all, we will drive down energy usage, but it doesn’t happen overnight.