Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak flew to Aberdeen in a private jet to announce that over 100 new licences were being awarded to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea.

 “Now more than ever” said Sunak, “it’s vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalise on that independence to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses.”

But this energy will not be secure, affordable, or clean. The licences are not ring-fenced for UK companies, and the fuel they produce will be sold on the global market, so the price paid by British consumers will continue to be dictated by global events.

 The nationalistic argument that if we’re going to use fossil fuels, it’s better to ‘Burn British’ completely misses the point that the quantity of oil and gas already discovered exceeds the global Carbon Budget. So every extra tonne we discover in the North Sea will need to be cancelled out by another country deciding not to use a tonne already discovered on their territory. How can the UK, which reaped so much of the benefit of the coal-powered industrial revolution, turn to other countries and ask them to “do their bit” whilst we adopt a policy of “maxing out” our own reserves?!

 The PM also employed bogus statistics, claiming that foreign gas released “four times the emissions of North Sea gas”. If this were true, I’d have to agree that burning our own was the right thing to do. But that figure simply isn’t correct: It ignores the emissions from burning the fuel and only counts the emissions associated with getting it out of the ground and delivering it to the customer. This is the equivalent of claiming you’ve “gone green” by filling up your diesel car using a solar-powered pump!

Or perhaps a better analogy is Newquay airport: The site is owned and subsidised by Cornwall Council, but its 2030 net-zero target only covers the emissions associated with “ground operations” and completely ignores the emissions from aircraft! I have led the Liberal Democrat campaign for the Council to put a limit on aircraft emissions, reducing it annually to reach net-zero by 2040. This would make Cornwall a global leader in sustainable aviation, and give companies developing low-carbon aircraft a reason to set up shop at Newquay Airport.

 Labour’s response to Sunak’s announcement was to criticise the decision but also to say that if they win the next election, they wouldn’t reverse it!

 The only way to deliver clean, secure and affordable energy is to commit wholeheartedly to insulation, efficiency and renewable generation, but it’s clear that both the Conservatives and Labour are unwilling to do so. Only the Liberal Democrats are prepared to stand up to the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry.