New briefing: Why we don’t need more onshore oil in the UK

UK Government energy policy and local planning rules on onshore oil developments need to change, say campaigners.

The Weald Action Group has published a briefing Why we don’t need more onshore oil in the UK, which refutes claims made by the onshore oil industry that their developments are needed to maintain energy security, that UK oil has a lower carbon footprint than imported oil, that they provide local jobs and that they are needed for plastic production. 

Professor Paul Ekins, Professor of Resources and Environmental Policy at University College London, says: “This excellent report shows that new onshore oil wells in the UK are economically unnecessary as well as being environmentally at odds with the government’s climate rhetoric.”

Among the key findings are:

  • New onshore oil fields, which have a lifetime of 20 years or more, are not needed to maintain security of supply in the UK at a time of declining demand for oil.
  • New UK oil sites would increase the global supply of oil rather than shutting down sites in other countries.
  • There is no low-carbon oil. Attempts to compare the carbon footprint of different sources of oil belie the complexity of the workings of the global oil market and are misleading.
  • Applications for new oil sites promise very few jobs or unmanned operations. Evidence shows that investments in renewable energy production and energy efficiency measures create more than twice as many jobs. 
  • More oil is not needed to make even more plastic, even at a time of increasing PPE need and use because of the Covid-19 crisis.

The briefing also highlights out-of-date policies which underpin the way planning decisions about onshore oil are made and calls for an urgent review. It asks the Committee on Climate Change to review the role of oil in the transition to Net Zero Carbon and provide new advice to Government based on current evidence and science.

“We need urgent change”, says Ann Stewart of the Weald Action Group. “Decision-makers are under pressure from oil companies wanting to expand operations across the South of England. They are out of step with the times and the science. The environmental costs are too high and the oil their sites might produce is not needed”.

Kirsty Clough of Weald Action Group says, “The briefing calls out misinformation presented by the oil industry. We hope it will help planners need to realise this and start asking more questions, rather than taking oil companies’ claims at face value when they are presented in application documents.” 

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