16th August 2023 – Weaning off oil

I have to admit I start this column feeling furious. As you will no doubt be aware Rishi Sunk has agreed to over 100 new licences for drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea. Presumably he’s banking on securing a one-way ticket to Mars for his family, because these licences will undoubtedly worsen the climate crisis, ensuring the future world his children and grandchildren will inhabit is unlikely to be fit for purpose. Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law’s firm (of which his wife has a reported £400 million pound stake) is reputed to have signed a $1.5 billion deal with BP just two months before the new licences were announced; make of this what you will. 

There is only one way of tackling the climate crisis, and that is to keep the oil in the ground. Anything else is a sticking plaster. No quantity of trees will mitigate climate heating, and besides our forests are dying in droves through drought, fire and pathogenic disease. Money poured into ineffective energy-intensive carbon capture schemes simply leads to a delay in tackling the problem in hand, which is simple; stop. Stop using fossil fuels. Full stop.

You may have read the gaslighting government spin that by issuing these licences we will no longer be reliant on other countries for the purchase of our gas and oil. This is a nonsense. At the moment we are a net exporter; in 2021 at the height of the energy crisis, Britain exported 31,975Gwh of gas, double what it exported in 2020. To put this into context, a single gigawatt is enough to power one million homes for an hour.  

I try to remain positive when talking about climate change, but there is a time and place to speak the truth, and this latest development makes me feel we need it now. Oceans are warming, temperatures in many parts of the world are already dangerously hot. Storms are fiercer, floods are likely to get worse. We are reaching tipping points, beyond which uncertainty prevails. Life is set to get a whole lot harder. 

What can we do? Firstly we can write to our MP and explain we will not be voting for them until the decision to licence new oil and gas drilling is overturned and they can show a meaningful commitment to climate policies. It may be difficult to accept that our prime minister is selling our children’s future for short-term gain; it’s something we would all rather not believe. Finding your own facts about what’s going on can be empowering. Question everything. Rather than gathering information from social media, much of which is unreliable, find sites you can trust; Berkeley Earth and Our World in Data are good places to start.

Individually we can move away from fossil fuel reliance by insulating our houses, exploring alternative heat options such as heat pumps and solar thermal, buying green energy and using green modes of travel. We can buy organic and buy secondhand. We can only be powerful as a collective though if the action is repeated by many individuals. 

And in the meantime we can strengthen our communities and our homes, because we are going to need our loved ones around us when the effects of global heating really start to hit the fan.

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