Lib Dems oppose new oil drilling site

Ed Davey is quoted extensively in the Independent on the plans to build a new oil drilling site in Surrey at Horse Hill, which is not far from Gatwick Airport.

Surrey County Council’s decision to permit the development will be reviewed in the Court of Appeal next month after challenges by local residents. The Government is expected to defend the decision – just days before COP26.

Ed has written to Alok Sharma, the climate minister:

This new oil field is the equivalent to ministerial colleagues breaking your cricket bat just as you walk out to the crease at Cop26.

Your job is to hold China to account for their new oil infrastructure – how can you do that when your government is building its own?

As the minister responsible for Cop26, you must put party allegiances aside, and call for the government to oppose this new oil field and immediately call in the planning application.

He is echoed by Zöe Franklin, Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Guildford.

Climate activists have been protesting at the site for some time.

 

 

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25 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 21st Oct '21 - 1:40pm

    This is a difficult issue as we know that there will continue to be a need for oil, and products that are derived from oil, for years to come as we await the development and production of alternatives. Not producing our own oil, and importing oil from other countries instead, hardly seems sensible from either an economic or environmental standpoint. That said, opposing an oil project allows the Liberal Democrats to appear to be standing up for the environment.

  • @ Zoe Barnes “It is the height of hypocrisy for Gov to be hosting #COP26 and telling others to reduce emissions and go green when they are allowing and defending the decision of Surrey’s Conservatives to allow six oil wells to go ahead here in Surrey”.

    How do Zoe and Sir Edward Davey regard the new Cambo Oilfield which, rather inconveniently from a political point of view, is situated north west of the Shetlands ?

  • Jenny Barnes 21st Oct '21 - 3:54pm

    All investment in and subsidies for fossil fuels needs to be redirected to renewables now.

  • @Brad Barrows – From the published information it seems the total reserve is circa 11 billion barrels which can be readily extracted at a rate of circa 3,000 barrels per day.
    UK oil consumption is circa 1.5 million barrels per day. So this reserve would seem to be capable of satisfying circa 0.2% of the UK’s current demand albeit for rather a long time…

    I suggest, just like fracking, this is more about economic stimulation rather than the security of (general public) energy supply. Additionally, with the current downward pressure on oil consumption, we can expect there to be a glut of oil in the world market in the coming decades…

    As for not producing our own oil, well, we are already there with natural gas where successive governments decided it was better to import – mostly from Russia on short-term contracts…

  • Would Lib Dems ban the import of oil? The use of oil? Oil production?

    Or complain but continue to use the benefits of oil?

  • Phil Beesley 21st Oct '21 - 7:56pm

    Lib Dems have a problem understanding the differences between production and consumption of fossil fuel.

    Starting with simple ideas, the UK will consume fossil fuels for many years. After we’ve (We=UK) stopped burning the stuff, we’ll still extract it to make industrial products such as plastics.

    In recent years, we have exported our pollution problems to China and other developing nations. They make all of the nasty things so that the developed world can claim that it doesn’t make a mess.

    While or after we’re burning the stuff, who would you prefer to be extracting it? Companies who will try to get away with everything in a country far away or companies operating in the UK governed by UK law?

    When oil or gas is extracted, we want extractors to do it efficiently with the minimum of pollution. We require them to be honest and to never pay bribes (cough, splutter). OK, it is dreadful now, but we have a decent chance of getting some Western companies to do the right (or better) thing, and zero chance for other companies.

    What is the “UK environmentalist solution”? To treat all fossil fuel companies the same way. To assume that all fossil fuel companies desecrate environments.

  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Oct '21 - 8:18am

    fossil fuel apologists have a problem understanding that humanity has already discovered more oil than we can safely burn, and that we have only one planet.
    Any resources spent on developing new oilfields or coal mines would be much better spent on building more renewable energy.
    As to the requirement for plastic – we could do with less of it, actually – most of it is currently made from methane gas by various reforming processes. It would be entirely possible to make plastic from hydrogen and the waste carbon dioxide from the remaining gas fired power stations. I believe Ineos, well known maker of plastic, is planning a large hydrogen electrolysis plant. Hydrogen can well be generated when there is too much renewable energy.

  • Paul Murray 22nd Oct '21 - 8:30am

    This sounds rather like nimbyism. Would the residents be happy if the land was instead filled with wind turbines and solar panels?

    It seems to me that there is currently a gap between demand and the supply of a sufficient and continuous supply of energy from renewable/carbon-neutral sources.

    If the Liberal Democrats want to have a policy of not fracking for gas or drilling for oil then they must be prepared to “own” any consequences such as power outages due to shortages of non-renewables to cover a supply shortfall from carbon-neutral sources.

  • John Marriott 22nd Oct '21 - 9:20am

    Are we backing ourselves into a corner over continued exploration for oil and natural gas? You can’t just switch off completely as some would demand. Brad Barrows is being realistic, while Jenny Barnes is being unrealistic, in my opinion. I just wish people would stop being so cocksure that they are right on some issues. I seem to remember back in the 1950s that advertisers were telling us to eat more calorific food as calories gave us more energy.

    What I would say on fracking is that, unlike the USA, we are a small island without the large tracts of land, where the process has less of a knock on effect. One earthquake is one too many in my book, especially in areas that extract much of their water from aquifers.

  • Antony Watts 22nd Oct '21 - 12:03pm

    Let’s be absolute about climate change, not relative. No more oil drilling in UK or in seas around us. No more.

    Time to make a clean break, stop fiddling around with things like “we will still need oil” etc. No. No more oil.

  • I understand the argument that, even while pursuing a long term zero-carbon aim, we will continue to need some oil. But there are already ample supplies being produced elsewhere in the world, and as far as I’m aware, there’s no current plausible danger of the UK losing those supplies.

    The problem with developing new oil wells is that that will increase the amount of oil being produced in the World – and, the laws of supply and demand being what they are, that will inevitably contribute slightly to reducing the global prices of oil, increase the amount being consumed thereby add to climate change. And of course it makes it easy for politicians in other countries to say, “Look, the UK is adding new oil production, so why shouldn’t we do the same too!

    I think on balance, Ed Davey is right to oppose the new wells. This kind of investment needs to be directed towards renewable energy – where it will give the UK comparable economic benefits without further harming the climate.

  • Chris Moore 22nd Oct '21 - 4:09pm

    The reality that it will take decades to wean the economy of hydro-carbons is giving cover to the idea that new fields must therefore be approved.

    Unless there is a change in attitude and a realisation of the need for urgency, little will change, and we will be having exactly the same argument in 10 years’ time.

    We need to get on with it.

  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Oct '21 - 4:22pm

    ” continued exploration for oil and natural gas? You can’t just switch off completely”

    Why do you need to explore for more, when we already have more than we can safely burn? I think exploring for more is just another attempt to carry on with business-as-usual. World CO2 output is continuing to rise. It’s unrealistic IMO to think we can live in a world where temperature has risen by 3 degC, but on current trajectories, I expect we’ll find out.

  • Nonconformistradical 22nd Oct '21 - 5:49pm

    @Jenny Barnes
    “Why do you need to explore for more, when we already have more than we can safely burn? ”

    It isn’t all burned – some is used in chemical industries.
    https://cen.acs.org/business/petrochemicals/future-oil-chemicals-fuels/97/i8

  • Brad Barrows 22nd Oct '21 - 6:16pm

    @Antony watts
    The production of oil continues because the demand for oil and oil based products continues. As someone absolutely against any more production of oil, I assume you are absolutely not a consumer of oil or oil based products, as otherwise you would bear some responsibility for the continuing demand for the production of oil.

  • Barry Lofty 22nd Oct '21 - 6:21pm

    Just to say, ” Rome wasn’t built in a day”, sorry but get real!

  • I am by no means knowledgeable about this subject but I would have thought that certain things are rather obvious. The petroleum industry has evolved into a gigantic extraction /refine /separate /refine / further refine operation with lots of highly specialised interconnecting processes.

    The resulting industries can be considered major product types such as plastics, but this is too simplistic. One use of plastics is as the insulating circuit board. Without that, what would we use, a plank of wood?. That means your TV, mobile, home electricity, car, every appliance, all electrical equipment, CT scanners, domestic electricity, industry, everything. A world with no electricity.

    What about other plastics? What about medical uses, syringes, tubing, food uses, industrial uses,?
    What about all the pharmaceuticals, chemical feedstocks, feeds for the dyes and pigments, feedstocks for synthetics? I refer to the polymer industry with polyethylene, polyamine, polyamide, polyurethane, polyesters, polypropylene and lots of lesser known but very important materials.

    Then we get to the specialist oils themselves, essential for all types of lubrication and chemical processes. Then the more volatile fractions, the gases like ethylene, propylene, butane, ethylene and all their valuable derivatives used throughout industry?
    I could go on and on, but it is important to say that this entire industry is interdependent on the myriad of substances that flow from this single fossil fuel. The different volumes and values are all intricately balanced throughout an enormous refining process so each element of the process has inputs, outputs and by products. All of these collectively determine the financial viability of the individual streams.
    When I read comments like “Fossil fuels, yeah, we can get rid of them now, we don’t need them.”
    I could weep. Not out of nostalgia for fossil fuels but for the ignorance of mankind.

  • Barry Lofty 22nd Oct '21 - 8:18pm

    Very informative Peter!

  • @Phil Beesley – “Starting with simple ideas, the UK will consume fossil fuels for many years. After we’ve (We=UK) stopped burning the stuff, we’ll still extract it to make industrial products such as plastics.”

    Not sure if we will actually stop burning the stuff, given the need to dispose of the fracking byproducts, of which gasoline is just one. Also in the longer-term ie. once we have reduced atmospheric carbon levels to levels more similar to those seen for millions of hears prior to the industrial revolution.

    As for the argument about imports, remember the UK hasn’t been energy self-sufficient for many decades, hence is a red herring. However, if we take the worst projections for the perfect storm, a post-2050 UK population of circa 6m could well be self-sufficient…

  • Roland 21st Oct ’21 – 7:34pm:
    …with the current downward pressure on oil consumption, we can expect there to be a glut of oil in the world market in the coming decades…

    Oil consumpton is projected to increase by 0.6% a year through to 2050…

    ‘EIA projects nearly 50% increase in world energy usage by 2050, led by growth in Asia’ [September 2019]:
    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=41433

    Worldwide renewable energy consumption increases by 3.1% per year between 2018 and 2050, compared with 0.6% annual growth in petroleum and other liquids, 0.4% growth in coal, and 1.1% annual growth in natural gas consumption.

    As for not producing our own oil, well, we are already there with natural gas where successive governments decided it was better to import – mostly from Russia on short-term contracts…

    Around half of our gas is imported, the majority from Norway and most of the remainder (as LPG) from Qatar and the US…

    ‘DUKES 2021: Chapter 4: Natural Gas’:
    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1006628/DUKES_2021_Chapter_4_Natural_gas.pdf

    In 2020, indigenous production met more than half of demand with the remainder supplied via imports. […]

    Imports of natural gas from Norway account for more than half of total imports. This is largely because of the UK’s proximity to Norway and shared infrastructure in the North Sea. […]

    LNG import sources have diversified, so improving UK security of supply. Historically, a large proportion of LNG imports have come from Qatar and this accounted for just under half of total LNG imports in 2020, compared to 98 per cent when they peaked in 2011. The UK imported LNG from a further nine sources; notably imports from the US increased by 72 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019.

  • @Jeff – Yes in some respects I would expect the EIA to project increases, I suspect they think the attempts to voluntarily reduce consumption (ie. COP21) and the adoption of electric cars will have negligible impact.
    However, I do think the EIA forecast is credible and so gives a good indication of how big a challenge the changes being expected of COP21 are going to be.
    It is going to be interesting to see what does and doesn’t get agreed and who actually goes away and walks the talk…

    Thanks for the more detailed analysis of our LNG imports (and not LPG). This article is also informative: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/875383/Trends_in_trade_of_Liquefied_Natural_Gas_in_the_UK_and_Europe.pdf
    It doesn’t mention Norway, but does put Russia broadly equal to the USA, in either case it does show the true perspective and not the distorted view presented in the media.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Oct '21 - 9:13am

    Meanwhile…..
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ulez-congestion-charge-mps-expenses-b1942174.html?r=5672#comments-area

    “MPs who drive into Westminster are avoiding tens of thousands of pounds a year in congestion charges and ultra low emission zone fees by putting them on expenses, an investigation by The Independent has found.”

    “Many of the MPs claiming the fees on expenses drive more polluting cars that require them to pay the additional Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) fees – which brings their total payments to £27.50 a day. But under parliamentary expense rules they can have the taxpayer cover the cost, an approach the chair of London’s health committee warns “defeats the point of having these deterring measures in place”.”

    “The Independent has identified 116 MPs who have expensed £15 congestion charges or ULEZ fees at least once since the beginning of the current financial year – 86 of them Conservatives and 24 Labour. ”
    That leaves six unaccounted for – I do hope there are no LibDems among them….

  • Jenny Barnes 24th Oct '21 - 3:53pm

    Please would people use tinyURL or similar rather than posting immensely long URLs.

  • @Jenny Barnes “Please would people use tinyURL or similar rather than posting immensely long URLs.“. I’d actually prefer the opposite: That people continue posting the actual URLs, even if they are long. I appreciate long URLs can be annoying – but if people post the full URLs, then we can see exactly what we are about to click on, and make an informed judgement about whether we want to go to that website. TinyURL looks nice but hides where you are actually going to, which means you have no idea whether you’re about to go to a legitimate professional website, someone’s ad-hoc blog, an ad-filled monstrosity or something worse.

  • Sorry Jenny, I was being lazy. Normally, I try and use a hyperlink so the text gives a meaningful indication of what is being linked to.

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