Rosebank Can Never Offer Energy Security
Updated: Sep 30
Energy security is a poor excuse for fossil fuels; we deserve better from our governments
By George Taylor
Wednesday's announcement by the North Sea Transition Authority to grant development and production consent for Rosebank comes days after the UK government rolled-back on key Net Zero commitments, and amidst continued uncertainty for the future of high-speed rail.
The NSTA said they “[took] net zero considerations into account throughout the project’s lifestyle” - despite the oil-producing lifetime of Rosebank running until 2051. Everywhere, it seems Westminster has given up on an energy transition for the UK; reliance on fossil fuels - from home heating, to cars, to heavy industry - is somehow back with a vengeance.
The argument in favour of new oil and gas licensing rests mostly on so-called “energy security” as an excuse, with Equinor itself boasting they ‘play a key role in Britain’s energy security, and have done so for 40 years’.
They conveniently do not mention 90% of oil produced from Rosebank will be exported, the £3.75 billion tax break they will receive for developing the field, or the $74.9 billion pre-tax earnings made in 2022 (which is hidden half-way down a dry article entitled Equinor fourth quarter 2022 and year end results).
Equinor patiently and condescendingly explained ‘Why do we need Rosebank’ in a video striding along Aberdeen’s Donmouth Beach (popular with walkers, but also with student bonfires) claiming Rosebank can have the ‘smallest possible carbon footprint’.
Answers in helpfully-signposted FAQs dodge their own question - ‘Will the oil and gas produced from Rosebank be sold to the UK or overseas markets’ - saying that some will ‘ultimately end up in the UK grid’.
“Energy security” is a now-common term thrown around by policymakers without critically questioning underlying shibboleths: Energy? What kind of energy? Wind, solar, nuclear? Who is using the energy? Industry, consumers, homeowners? Security? Whose security?
The 14 energy companies - including Shell, BP, EnQuest, Synergia - stand to profit from new carbon storage licences from the NSTA? Scotland’s energy system is increasingly fossil-fuel free. Less than 10% of electricity generation in Scotland came from fossil fuels in 2020, mostly LNG with oil negligible and coal eliminated. With the increase in renewables - the expanded capacity of both offshore and onshore wind, the reduced cost of solar - why should Scotland rely on new oil and gas to secure its energy?
Rosebank is an act of climate vandalism by the UK government. It is patently clear now that the Conservative Party are the party of climate denial. Encouraging oil and gas extraction can only lead to climate catastrophe; it cannot guarantee the UK’s energy security given that Equinor, like all multinational oil companies, sell to the world market.
It cannot address the cost-of-living crisis as UK domestic energy prices are still tied to gas prices, despite a majority of our electricity coming from non-fossil fuels. More and more the Tories’ ineptitude for basic functions of government - funding schools, building railways, investing in the future - show us the need for a general election and a new government.
The energy transition is hamstrung between the Tories who U-turn on every climate commitment made so far, and Labour who U-turn on every possible climate commitment (and then some) - including policies like wealth taxes and public railways which are necessary, integral parts of an energy transition.
Despite Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds telling Sky News on Wednesday morning that Labour don’t support Rosebank, the party will not reverse this decision - or any of the other 100 licences issued by Rishi Sunak in the past months to ‘max out’ North Sea reserves. Their position does not make sense: a majority of voters oppose new oil and gas, including in Aberdeen.
We are stuck between a Conservative government that has embraced climate denial under the guise of a cost-of-living crisis they themselves created, and a Labour Party that prevaricates endlessly on climate action and is terrified of the economic reform necessary to enact climate policies.
It is young people who will suffer the worst ongoing effects of this climate crisis. So now is the time for young people in the North East and across Scotland to get organised. Because there is still time. There is still time for Starmer to show leadership, to put himself on the right side of history.
There is still time to end our addiction to fossil fuels - and win a Green New Deal that benefits us all. There is still time.