Scottish oil and gas strategy under fire

Scotland's latest oil and gas strategy has been slammed by green groups for threatening the country's future energy security by backing big businesses which rely on fossil fuels.

Unveiled today (May 29) by the Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, the ‘Maximising the future of oil and gas’ strategy, aims to strengthen the domestic supply chain by focusing more on resource recovery rates, with an overall aim of achieving £30bn in annual sales by 2020.

It sets out how it will achieve this by identifying six priorities for action, which include increasing the proportion of sales from exports and identify clear priorities for innovation and accelerate technology deployment to support recovery rates.

In addition, it outlines plans to promote new and emerging opportunities for supply chain companies in technologies such as offshore wind, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and decommissioning.

The first minister also announced that Scottish Enterprise will make up to £10m available to support innovation in the sector over three years in a bid to fund infrastructure development.

He said: “Oil and gas is one of Scotland’s greatest industrial success stories, having transformed the economic well-being of the UK over the last 40 years.

“With as much as £1.5 trillion of oil remaining to be extracted from reserves around these islands, an increasingly buoyant export sector now reaching 100 different countries, and emerging opportunities to deploy the sector’s vast expertise in other offshore projects, the industry has a bright future.”

However, the Scottish Green party have accused the first minister of being “beholden” to big companies which threaten energy security and damage the environment.

Green MSP for Glasgow, Patrick Harvie, said: “Ministers should be pursuing Scotland’s renewable energy potential with vigour, delivering new jobs and public benefits into the bargain. Instead they are patting on the back corporations that are cashing in on our addiction to oil and gas.

“We know the damage fossil fuels do to our environment so we should be leaving them under the seabed until we know we can safely capture and store the greenhouse gases they generate. And we know fossil fuels are running out so we should be transforming our energy system to harness our natural resources, giving public and community bodies a leading role.”

Echoing this view, WWF Scotland warned that the plan risks locking Scotland into a high carbon future and threatens the marine environment and called for it to continue to pursue renewables.

WWF Scotland head of policy, Dr Dan Barlow, said: “Developing a zero carbon economy requires a strategy that focuses on ending our addiction to oil and gas, not seeking to squeeze every last drop from beneath the seabed. Our relentless pursuit of oil is at odds with Scotland’s strong commitment to tackle climate change.

“With our fantastic renewables potential and scope to use energy much more efficiently, Scotland is well placed to make the transition to a clean and secure energy supply, create thousands of green jobs and protect households from rising bills. Rather than seeking to further develop and export our oil and gas we should be focusing on the vast opportunities to export clean renewable energy and technology solutions of the future.”

Carys Matthews

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