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Patrick Harvie: Ukraine invasion doesn’t justify North Sea production boost

© PAPatrick Harvie North Sea
Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie at Bute House, Edinburgh

Scottish Green party co-leader Patrick Harvie has said the war in Ukraine must not be used to justify increased production of fossil fuels from the North Sea.

Speaking at his party conference over the weekend, he welcomed sanctions being imposed on Russia for its “flagrant and grievous breach of international law”.

However he added that “extreme fossil fuel ideology would throw our future away”  and reducing imports from Russia must not be used to justify an increase in North Sea production.

Oil and gas prices have soared in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with average household annual bills set to increase by £700 on April 1 due to the price cap increase.

Experts including Paul de Leeuw of Robert Gordon University have said that all options should remain on the table, however others have pointed to initiatives such as increasing a warm homes discount policy as being the correct course.

Mr Harvie, whose party is in government with the SNP in Holyrood, said: “Here in Scotland, the Tories and their cheerleaders are shamelessly using this scenario to justify expanding oil and gas exploration and production.

“For them, barely months after COP left Glasgow any excuse will do to ignore the pressing climate science which should be keeping them awake at night.”

Boris Johnson is drawing up an energy supply strategy which is expected to focus on North Sea production, as well as further reliance on renewables, to try to mitigate the impacts on household energy bills.

Protecting domestic supply is crucial for the UK, although only about 4% of the country’s gas comes from Russia.

Oil from Russia accounts for 8% but has been sanctioned.

Nicola Sturgeon has said, even setting aside environmental concerns, the timescales for bringing on new production “take(s) years if not decades to plan and develop”.

This is supported by data from the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) from 2019 showing that the average time between discovery and fossil fuels flowing was 28 years.

The OGA, working with consultancy Wood Mackenzie, has since said the time for new discoveries reaching a key final investment decision is just five years. Due to a reduced number of FIDs in recent years, however, updated figures aren’t available for new projects going from discovery to first oil.

In either case, consumers are facing two hikes in bills – in April and October – meaning new production wouldn’t come online soon enough.

Boris Johnson’s supply plan is reported to focus on taking more gas from domestic sources rather than imports, not burning more gas overall.

A BEIS committee last week told MPs that measures related to storage, the warm homes discount and information around heating homes would be viable steps for the winter ahead.

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