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Letters / ‘We simply cannot yet manage without oil and gas’

But for the fact that he is a member of Shetland Islands Council (SIC), Alex Armitage’s anti-Rosebank jeremiad might be amusing. However, given his councillor duty to represent the interests of his constituents and Shetlanders, in general, it was pretty disappointing.

Protestors gather to voice opposition to Rosebank oil development

Campaigning to ban development of the Rosebank oil and gas field, he is undermining high quality jobs at Shetland Gas Plant and offshore.

Apparently, he claims, “climate breakdown is here”, trumping all other considerations.

In fact, over the last hundred years, deaths from climate-related disasters have fallen dramatically.

‘Our World in Data’ provide the following history:

This improvement resulted from increased prosperity due to our use of fossil fuels. We are progressing towards affordable alternatives, but it will take decades to eliminate them.

Long before the recent energy crisis the SIC estimated (2016) that 52 per cent of Shetlanders were in fuel poverty. Goodness only knows how many are now!

Yet Armitage boasts his main concern is for the “billions of people in the global south”. Not for his own constituents struggling with sky-high energy prices and soaring inflation. Extraordinary.

Unabashed and acknowledging the colossal benefits of oil and gas to Shetland, he asserts:

“The severe storms and snowfall that (…) Shetland experienced this winter (…) are the kind of freak weather events (…) made more likely by climate breakdown.”

Well, anyone who has lived in Shetland as long as I did know these are not “freak weather events”.

From the 1960s to the 1990s Saxa Vord repeatedly registered British wind speed records only for the measuring equipment to be destroyed by the wind. This last happened in 1992 when the pre-destruction wind speed was 197 mph. There was colossal damage across Shetland and two people lost their lives. Big snows were commonplace.

Last winter’s weather was nothing new, however it suits Mr Armitage’s agenda to foment alarm with such silly claims.

As for banning our own oil and gas developments, this is precisely what caused the recent energy price explosion.

Our UK/EU governments banned shale gas extraction and discouraged North Sea development at a time of falling output, making Europe (disastrously) dependent on Russia. Enough said.

Rosebank oil will thus be needed in Europe, saving the cost and emissions of importing from the US or Middle East. The gas will be piped to St Fergus and Grangemouth for use in the UK.

Armitage makes light of our need for oil and gas as feedstock for vital petrochemical products, claiming 75 per cent of Rosebank output will be burned.

Of course, it will still be essential for supplying our heating, transport and the national grid, which cannot run without conventional gas power plants, until affordable alternatives like small modular (nuclear) reactors become available.

When will hydrogen replace fossil fuels? Not next week!

He acknowledges that without North Sea developments we will be forced to import – at three times the carbon emissions of local production – but insists we must leave the fuel in the ground to “protect our planet”.

Alas, we simply cannot yet manage without oil and gas. Banning Rosebank would lead to higher emissions which would actually accelerate climate change, not reduce it.

So, unless councillor Armitage and his ‘Highly Protected Marine Area’-promoting Green Party pals can explain how we can live without the national grid, heating, transport and vital petrochemical products then we will continue to need fossil fuels for decades.

The low emissions route is to develop and use our own resources.

John Tulloch
Aberdeen

See also:

Local fuel poverty rate could skyrocket to 96%, council analysis suggests

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