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PM pledges to power up UK as new oil and gas plan prioritises energy security

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Rishi Sunak on carbon capture scheme and energy contracts

Rishi Sunak has vowed to “power up” Britain by unleashing a new era of oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.

The Prime Minister said at least 100 new licences allowing energy exploration off the coast of Scotland will be granted.

Mr Sunak insisted increasing production will help the UK “use the energy that we’ve got here at home because we’re going to need it for decades”.

Facing down criticism from climate change campaigners, he insisted it makes “no sense” to import energy or be reliant on foreign sources.

He said: “Even when we reach net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will still come from oil and gas. And domestic gas production has about a quarter or a third of the carbon footprint of imported gas.

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“So not only is it better for our energy security not to rely on foreign dictators for that energy, not only is it good for jobs, it is actually better for the environment because there is no point in importing stuff from halfway around the world with two to three times the carbon footprint of the stuff we have got at home. That makes absolutely no sense.”

Mr Sunak said Russian president Vladimir Putin has “manipulated and weaponised” energy and that it is “vital we bolster our energy security”.

He added: “We’re choosing to power up Britain from Britain and invest in crucial industries such as carbon capture and storage, rather than depend on more carbon-intensive gas imports from overseas. [It] will support thousands of skilled jobs, unlock further opportunities for green technologies and grow the economy.”

Mr Sunak insisted that granting more than a hundred new licences this autumn for oil and gas ­extraction in the North Sea was “entirely consistent” with the UK’s net zero commitments.

The PM also confirmed backing for two further carbon capture and storage (CCS) schemes – the Acorn Project in Aberdeenshire and the Viking Project in the Humber – that will be backed by up to £20billion of funding.

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Mr Sunak visited Shell’s St Fergus gas plant near Aberdeen on Monday to get a closer look at the processing of oil and gas that comes in from offshore platforms in the North Sea.

Energy giant Shell welcomed backing for the Acorn Project. Simon Roddy, senior vice president of UK upstream business, described it as “an important step forward for one of the UK’s leading CCS clusters”.

Lynsey Jones, of the Conservative Environment Network, said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement of two new carbon capture and storage clusters in the North Sea is welcome to develop this crucial industry.

“We can be a world leader in this technology, bringing investment to our shores, creating skilled jobs, and selling the service to other European countries.

“The best way to secure our energy supply and cut people’s bills is to accelerate homegrown renewables.”

But the PM’s plans were also met with criticism.

Tory MP Chris Skidmore said: “This is the wrong decision at precisely the wrong time, when the rest of the world is experiencing record heatwaves.

“It is on the wrong side of a future economy that will be founded on renewable and clean industries and not fossil fuels.

“It is on the wrong side of modern voters who will vote with their feet at the next general election for parties that protect, and not threaten, our environment. And it is on the wrong side of history, that will not look favourably on the decision taken today.

“Worryingly, this decision has also been announced when MPs are on recess, unable to hold the Government to account.

“I will be writing to the Speaker to call for an emergency debate as soon as we return.”

Labour’s Ed Miliband claimed the Tories’ “weak and confused” energy policy “will not take a penny off bills” for ordinary households.

The Shadow Climate Secretary added: “Every family and business in Britain has paid the price of the Conservatives’ failed energy policy which has left Britain as the worst-hit country in western Europe during the energy crisis – and Rishi Sunak is making the same mistake all over again.”

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