This post by Neil Rothnie was written as a letter to the Herald newspaper but the Herald declined to publish it
It’s North Sea gas price increases that are largely responsible for the cost of living crisis, making energy bills unpayable for growing numbers of people.
90% of the gas we use in our homes comes from the North Sea. Wholesale gas prices were soaring well before Russia invaded Ukraine. So far Ukraine and Russia have collaborated to keep most Russian gas flowing to Europe and finance both sides in this war. There have been no power outages or gas shortages in the UK or Europe.
North Sea gas price increases have not been caused by rising costs of production. There have been no wage increases for oil and gas workers, and no new pipelines or gas platforms built.
So what are the sky high gas prices all about? Supply and demand? Prices pushed up by a global shortage? China, Japan and India, where it is claimed that there are gas shortages, can’t access North Sea gas however much they’d be prepared to pay for it. There are not the facilities in Europe to liquify North Sea gas and there is not a fleet of empty LNG tankers waiting to transport it to Asia.
The oil companies either sell North Sea gas to us at prices people can afford or they drive consumers into cold and hunger. The choice they have made is clear. Profits of Shell, BP and Total in the first 3 months of this year are colossal – £7.5, £5 and £4 billion respectively.
Ordinary people can’t and won’t go on indefinitely paying for oil company profiteering. We can’t just live with the gas and electricity disconnections that are the inevitable result of unaffordable bills. Already Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion are justifiably on the streets engaged in civil disobedience aimed at the oil and gas industry. Far more widespread civil disobedience is surely inevitable as people respond to cold and hunger. Remember the Poll Tax?
Manipulating gas markets to impoverish your customers can’t in any way be described as a “windfall”. It’s an unprovoked and deadly attack by an industry whose time has passed, and a one-off tax won’t cut the mustard.
The plan to slash civil service jobs to free up the cash to meet the cost of living crisis is a perverse response. The industry needs to be taken out of the hands of our own oligarchs. The oil and gas that will have to be produced in the short term, needs to finance the transition that will allow us to stay warm in our homes, and the planet to stay cool enough to remain habitable. We need a plan to insulate our homes properly, and massively expand wind and solar generation to heat and light our homes in a way that doesn’t feed the climate crisis.
This is the opposite of the current oil industry/Government plan to Maximise Economic Recovery of North Sea oil and gas, ie, to produce and burn every barrel of hydrocarbon they can turn a profit on – business as usual.