ECCC told its time to start replacing North Sea oil
Britain needs to de-fossilise its ground transport sector before the 'bonanza' of North Sea oil runs out says Sir David King, director of Oxford's Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.
Warning that failure to address declining North Sea production could expose the UK to the sort of oil import costs which lie behind Italy's 38 billion euro deficit, Sir David told the House of Commons' Energy and Climate Change Committee today that the time had come for the Cabinet to give a clear statement of the way forward for nuclear.
"Oil price is the current elephant in the room," he said. "For example, Italy's national deficit at present is 38 billon euro per year and 34 billion euro of that is due to the cost of importing oil at $100 plus since 2000. That was when Italy's budget was last in balance. In the UK, of course, we've been shielded against this factor by our discovery of North Sea oil which, at its peak in 1999, amounted to 3.1m barrels a day."
With output from the North Sea now down at around 1.4m barrels a day, against a need of 1.6m/1.7m barrels, the good times are almost over.
"I believe, however, that by 2020 we can achieve a graduated independence of oil imports if we transfer our ground transport sector onto the electricity grid," he continued. "That would save the British economy in the region of £30-50 billion a year.
"To de-fossilise our ground transport sector is an essential step as we cannot afford to import the oil we would otherwise need to keep our economy going. There is little choice, therefore, but to end our dependence on oil."
Moving the ground transport system onto the electricity grid, however, will only be achieved if the right signals are given by Government.
"We need more than just to be given a green light on nuclear new build," he said. "We need a clear statement from Cabinet that this is the way forward. Such a statement is seen to be absent at the moment and is the reason why we have several utilities stepping away from nuclear. They're not getting the clear signals that are needed."
Asked by the ECCC if such a programme of change was possible, Sir David concluded: "I believe we can generate all the energy we need within our own country. We have enough uranium and plutonium stock-piled in Cumbria to cover our electricity needs for a very long time to come. As such, we can replace the bonanza of North Sea Oil before we lose it."