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Banning Russian energy is just the start: Britain needs to ratchet up domestic gas production if it wants to win the war

Net Zero Watch

London, 1 March — Net Zero Watch has welcomed the UK government’s decision to ban all Russian imports of gas, oil and coal and has called on Boris Johnson to dramatically ratchet up domestic gas and oil production in order to counter Putin’s energy war.

Last Friday, Net Zero Watch called on Boris Johnson to stop all Russian gas imports and follow through on his statement to Parliament that the UK should use domestic hydrocarbons “rather than pointlessly importing them from abroad.”

Yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told all UK ports to deny access to “any Russian flagged, registered, owned, controlled, chartered or operated vessels,” effectively banning the imports of Russian fuels and goods.

According to news reports, Britain is joining forces with European allies to help find alternative supplies of gas, paving the way for sanctions against Putin’s powerful energy weapon.

Officials in Whitehall are reportedly considering plans to significantly increase the delivery of liquified natural gas (LNG) at ports around the Continent, with the aim of meeting demand next winter if supplies from Russia are cut off.

Additional LNG supplies are likely to come from the US, Qatar and Australia, although these countries alone will not be sufficient to make up for the shortfall in Russian imports.

As a result, European governments are considering putting the phase-out of coal on hold and instead actually increasing coal-fired power generation to reduce dependence on Russian gas.

Britain’s most important contribution to Europe’s gas crisis and the strengthening of the Western alliance in face of Putin’s war on Ukraine has to be a radical increase in domestic gas production, both in the North Sea and through onshore hydraulic fracturing so that the UK and European supply is significantly enhanced.

However, we are gravely concerned about the UK Secretary of State for Energy’s complacency.

As Europe is facing the worst conflict since World War II, Mr Kwarteng is the only energy minister in Europe who is unwilling to contemplate a shift in energy policy, rendered necessary not only by the cost of living crisis, but now overwhelming by the security of supply crisis caused by Putin’s war.

Net Zero Watch director Dr Benny Peiser said:

In continuing to oppose the development of the UK’s massive shale gas resources, as if nothing has happened, Kwasi Kwarteng is failing not only the British people, but the efforts of democratic European nations desperate to find alternatives to Russian gas.”

Mr Kwarteng’s irresponsible business-as-usual stance is negligent in a time of extreme danger. We suspect that the briefings he is receiving from the civil service in the Department of Business and Energy are still unduly focused on Net Zero and do not reflect the altered circumstances of Putin’s war on the Ukraine.

If Kwasi Kwarteng continues to obstruct the exploration and development of what promise to be rich resources of low carbon shale gas in the UK he will make it more likely that the UK will have to extend the lives of the remaining coal plants, and perhaps even commission new coal burning power stations in the medium term to reduce the devastating cost of living crisis and address geostrategic realities.

As Net Zero Watch has argued consistently, a domestic gas to nuclear pathway remains the UK’s best policy from all perspectives – environmental, economic, social and geopolitical.