Aberdeenshire Conservative MP Colin Clark claimed the UK energy sector could be about to “cut off its nose to spite its face” if it doesn’t utilise the skills from North Sea oil and gas during a Treasury Committee meeting today.
Mr Clark, MP for Gordon, was part of a panel of MPs quizzing climate experts on the UK energy transition from oil and gas to renewables, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen energy.
Chris Stark, chief executive for the Committee on Climate Change, Sagarika Chatterjee, director of climate change for the Principle for Responsible Investment and Nick Robbins, sustainable finance professor at the London School of Economics all answered questions during the meeting.
Mr Clark asked: “Would you accept that energy companies probably have the engineers, the skills, the technology and the capital to achieve net zero?
“Mr Robbins mentioned Equinor moments ago, to divest from those companies might cut off our nose to spite our face, because we’re not going to create those companies and those engineers and technology out of the blue.”
Ms Chatterjee answered: “I think it’s a valid point that many of these companies have many of the skills.
“There is however a question out there amongst our investor community: will the present incompants be the companies of the future.
“Will they seize that opportunity or will they miss it because things are going so fast in the other direction? That remains to be played out and to see.
“What we are seeing is that some companies, such as Equinor, previously known as Statoil, Shell were mentioned, BP are signalling to investors that they would like to be part of this transition and taking steps in the right direction.
“However, much more needs to be done.”
Mr Robbins claimed that Danish firm Orsted, foremely Dong Energy, were the model that many oil and gas firms looking to transition should follow.
Mr Stark added: “The costs to the alternatives to fossil fuels are plummeting in price, and that is as true in China as it is in the UK, and some of that is a consequence of what we’ve done here in the UK.
“This is a moment for us to look at what’s happening and get ahead of that.”
Following the meeting, Mr Clark had some strong words for the sector and urged it to get its voice heard in energy transition debate.
He said: “The oil and gas industry is sleeping whilst the net zero debate leaves them behind.
“Oil and gas particularly hydrogen derived from natural gas in conjunction with carbon capture is one of the answers.
“The industry and its representatives are far too complacent. It is all very well promoting renewables but they are failing to explain how important oil and gas will be .
“The world must convert from coal to natural gas as the UK has done and Hydrogen from natural gas would be net zero.
“Jobs in the north-east are at stake, the oil and gas industry must wake up. This can be an opportunity not a risk.”