Dominic Lawson: Lower tax revenue and higher CO2 emissions: What Starmer’s financially illiterate plan to stop North Sea drilling would really mean for Britain

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By Paul Homewood

Which is worse: the economic illiteracy or the pretentious boasting?

My question is provoked by the news that the Labour Party proposes, if in government, to grant no new licences for oil and gas production in the North Sea, describing this as part of its plan to turn the UK into ‘a clean energy superpower’.

Does it even know what is meant by the term ‘superpower’? Properly understood, the word describes a nation that can project power on a global scale.

We could, once. Nowadays, only the U.S. — and possibly China — qualify. But perhaps Labour’s policy-makers mean we would be influencing others to go down the same path of abandoning their own fossil-fuel resources.

Reality check: at the 2021 UN climate change summit in Glasgow, the British chair of the event, Alok Sharma, was reduced to tears after the U.S., India and China all refused to sign up to any date by which they would abandon coal — the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels.

And the U.S. continues to strengthen its real global power (via cheap energy for its industry) through unconstrained production of shale gas and oil.

To be fair to the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, such vacuous ‘green’ boasting has also been the style of recent Conservative governments, notably under Boris Johnson: hyperbole is his mother tongue.

In 2020, the then Prime Minister declared that the UK would become ‘the Saudi Arabia of wind’. He was oblivious to the fact — or pretended to be — that the Saudis were a true energy superpower because they were able to export their oil globally (at colossal profit).

The other boast made then by Johnson, and now adopted by Labour, is that we would set in motion ‘a green Industrial Revolution’. This claim becomes no less absurd however much it is repeated.

The real Industrial Revolution, which saw wind power replaced by the massively more energy-dense coal, transformed this nation and the lives of its inhabitants by dramatically increasing productivity. The one thing even economists can agree on is that the only way to increase a nation’s wealth is through rising productivity.

The Industrial Revolution — roughly the 100-year period 1760-1860 — meant, as one historian put it, ‘the difference between the grinding poverty that had characterised most of human history and the affluence of the modern industrialised nations’.

This is well understood by the Chinese government, which is why they are determined to bring the living standards of their own 1.4 billion people up to those of the developed West, and why that vast population is expanding its coal-generated energy output at a rate which renders futile (in terms of its effect on global CO2 emissions) our own Government’s decision to shut down our coal-fired power stations.

Now Labour envisages a similar process with oil and gas. One of its policy-makers was quoted in yesterday’s Sunday Times saying: ‘We are against the granting of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea. They undermine our energy security and would drive a coach and horses through our climate targets.’

Presumably it would suit those ‘climate targets’ better if we did indeed revert to using coach and horses instead of cars — reverting to the era when only the richest could afford to travel other than by foot.

That would certainly be the future willed by the fanatics known as Just Stop Oil, whose well-to-do university-educated shock-troops have so enraged working men and women trying to earn their livings by car or van, but are prevented from doing so because of obstruction of the roads by these demonstrators. In fact, Labour’s proposal is to do exactly what Just Stop Oil is demanding.

Here is where the economic illiteracy comes in. Despite the already vast investment in ‘renewable’ energy — which has involved huge subsidies — this country still relies on about two-thirds of our energy from oil and gas. Wind and solar provide less than 10 per cent, mainly because their production is intermittent, relying on the ‘right sort of weather’.

It is an unfortunate fact that the coldest days — requiring the most amount of domestic energy use — tend to be the stillest. That is why Labour’s claim that we would lose ‘energy security’ if we keep producing oil and gas is actually the opposite of the truth. Deranged, even.

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