Oil and gas part of energy mix ‘for decades to come’, says Labour leader

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has admitted oil and gas will be part of the UK energy mix “for decades to come”.

Former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has backed Labour’s flagship policy to set up a publicly owned energy firm, calling for “vaccine-style” speed in the race to net zero, but Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak mocked the policy as being just “a logo”.

Labour unveiled a logo for its proposed Great British Energy company on Thursday.

Speaking in Greenock, Inverclyde, Sir Keir said: “We’re not turning off the taps, we’re not revoking the licences, and then oil and gas is part of the mix for decades to come.

Sir Keir Starmer in Greenock, Inverclyde
Sir Keir Starmer has admitted oil and gas will be part of the energy mix ‘for decades to come’ during a speech in Scotland (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“I’m very conscious that those jobs need to be in Scotland, in the sectors, using the skills that we already have.

“And that’s why this transition, unlike the transition from coal, will be one where we preserve and build and ensure the jobs are there, not just elsewhere in the United Kingdom but here in Scotland using the skills that we already have.”

Sir Keir added: “By sticking our head in the sand and pretending it’s not happening, we are actually doing the worst or worst things for people who work in the energy sector, and in 20 years, they would look back on a government that took no action and say, ‘how on Earth did you allow that to happen and leave us in that situation?’”

He also said: “Renewables are cheap.

“There’s a massive prize here, lower bills, security, the next generation of jobs, so clean power is the best opportunity we’ve had in a generation for the next generation of jobs.”

Earlier this week, Sir Keir visited Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, where he claimed alternative renewable sources would give the Government more “control over what happens in this country” if shocks hit global oil and gas markets, such as the conflict in Ukraine.

Asked about Sir Patrick’s support for the policy, the Prime Minister said: “All this new policy is, is a logo.

“You don’t deliver energy security for our country with a logo.

“There’s a clear choice on this issue.

“My view is we have to prioritise this country’s energy security, that’s why we’ll continue to support Britain’s North Sea energy industry.

“That’s not something that the Labour Party supports, they will ban further energy exploration there even though independent experts all say that we need that energy for decades to come.

“On top of that, I’ll make sure we get to net zero in a proportionate way that does not load up ordinary families with thousands of pounds worth of costs.

“So yes, we’ll get to net zero, but I will do it in a way that prioritises our country’s energy security and household bills.

“All we’ve seen from the Labour Party today is a logo. And as our experts have described their ideas: they’re incoherent, incredible and completely unachievable.”

Red Sea shipping attacks
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dismissed Labour’s energy plan as ‘a logo’ (Yui Mok/PA)

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said Labour’s plan failed to “meet the demands of the climate crisis”, adding: “Compared to Labour’s original commitment to spend £28 billion a year on green investment, this announcement of just £8.3 billion over the course of the parliament looks tiny and is nowhere near enough to deliver Labour’s promise of ‘clean electricity’.”

Sir Patrick, who appeared on TV screens with Mr Sunak throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, told The Times that Labour’s pledge to decarbonise British energy supplies by 2030 “can be done, and can be done fast”.

The former chief scientific adviser wrote the Covid-19 vaccine rollout “became possible” when “government, academia and industry came together”.

“If we choose to go slowly others will provide the answers and we will ultimately end up buying the solutions rather than selling them.

“Getting to a clean power system fast and with appropriate technologies is an investment, not simply a cost.”

He also wrote: “This is a mission that should go beyond party politics.

“It is about our security, the cost of living, job opportunities of the future and the climate.”

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