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Why it’s self-defeating to turn North Sea oil industry into a premature pariah – Brian Wilson

The North Sea oil industry could expand into the Cambo field off the west coast of Shetland (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Why, in the view of those who oppose its development, is it preferable to import oil and gas rather than produce it from our own resources?

Stopping Cambo or indeed the whole west of Shetland province will not interfere with issues of demand by one drop of oil or cubic metre of gas. It will just marginally change the balance of where it comes from. All the focus of environmental significance should be on the demand side.

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At present the UK gets about 70 per cent of the oil and gas we consume from domestic sources. Cambo if developed will represent, over the next 25 years, about four per cent of that demand. Not on its own transformational but a useful contribution. What are the realistic alternatives? Imports not, sadly, virtue.

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The world is going to descend on Glasgow in November and one of the most useful things it could consider is the future exploitation of oil and gas. It could seek international agreement on where a line should be drawn – and then try to persuade the dozens of countries, many of them very poor, to sign up to that treaty, compensating them if necessary.

Until then, making the UK more rather than less dependent on imports, while throwing away the associated jobs, is self-defeating. We have among the highest regulatory and environmental standards in the world. We should be exporting them rather than turning the North Sea industry into a premature pariah.

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