The UK’s leading offshore energy body has said environmental activists could undermine the country’s energy security and hinder its efforts to reach net zero.
Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) chief executive Deirdre Michie said attempts by pressure groups to block further oil and gas investment in UK waters would make the country increasingly dependent on other countries for energy, which could include Russia.
It comes after more than 30 people from the Just Stop Oil group were charged during a 60-hour standoff at the Nustar Clydebank facility in West Dunbartonshire earlier this month after climbing on top of tankers and locking themselves to the entrance.
Activists have refuted Ms Michie’s comments, claiming it is the country’s dependence on fossil fuels that undermines energy security, not the people highlighting the problem.
Ms Michie is due to address colleagues at OEUK’s annual conference on Tuesday.
In her speech, she is to emphasise the role oil and gas-derived energy and products have for British consumers, noting that emissions are driven by a country’s infrastructure, and not by the source of its fuels.
Ms Michie will say: “Our conference today follows months of disruption, protests and legal actions involving groups like Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, Greenpeace and others.
“It’s no irony to say that we are aligned with their long-term vision, of a low-carbon UK. But we do disagree with their approach as to how we get there. Because the actions they’ve been taking – headline grabbing but damaging – are another risk to investor confidence.”
OEUK claims the UK has 32 million petrol and diesel vehicles, 24 million homes reliant on gas boilers, and 35 power stations that use gas to make 40% of the country’s power, which Ms Michie said “does absolutely need to change”.
“But, and this is not an excuse, those changes will take time – so for some decades to come, much of our energy will inevitably come from oil and gas,” she added.
“Of course, we do have a choice as to where that oil and gas comes from. We could cut production and increase imports, intensifying our reliance on other countries. But as the Ukraine crisis shows, that’s not a great option.
“Or we could instead choose to invest in the oil and gas resources in our own back yard.”
Ms Michie claims if pressure groups were “to get their way”, it would make the UK more dependent on other countries for oil and gas which would “destroy tens of thousands of other jobs”.
“It would cost our country and consumers billions of pounds in import bills,” she continued.
“And here is the irony: it would actually increase global emissions as we would have to import fuels with a higher carbon footprint rather than use what we have produced locally.”
Ms Michie will urge politicians, policy makers and pressure groups to work with OEUK in the decades to come.
A spokesperson for Greenpeace UK said: “It’s our dependence on fossil fuels that’s undermining our energy security, not the activists highlighting the problem.
“It’s fossil fuels that are giving us budget-busting energy bills, funding Putin’s war and fuelling megadroughts and record-breaking heatwaves all over the world.
“The organisation formerly known as Oil and Gas UK has done more than most to get us into this mess.
“No wonder their solution is to double down on the fossil fuels that caused the problem in the first place.”
Just Stop Oil members added: “It is beyond ironic that Offshore Energies UK seeks to blame climate activists for the UK Government’s energy security failure, when they represent the very industry that has lobbied governments for decades to delay climate action and kept us dependent on toxic oil and gas.
“Such actions will soon be viewed as criminal and those who have undertaken them will be prosecuted.
“The Government needs to focus on insulation, demand reduction and renewables as the most cost-effective way of meeting climate targets and reducing UK reliance on fossil fuels that fund wars and cause destitution.
“It’s a no-brainer and the oil and gas industry can squeal all they like but either the industry dies or we all perish.”
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