Huhne accused of 'hypocrisy' for promoting offshore oil in Scotland and Arctic

| 4th March 2011

The UK recently approved oil exploration in the Shetlands

Climate change minister urges more urgent cuts to greenhouse gas emissions while allowing renewed push for oil in remote regions

Campaigners have criticised energy and climate change minister Chris Huhne for urging the UK to end its dependence on oil and gas at the same time as promoting the push for more oil off the Scottish coast and the Arctic.

In a major speech today, Huhne set out the economic imperative of switching more quickly to a low-carbon economy saying high oil prices could cost the UK £45 billion. 

'I asked economists at DECC to look at how a 1970s style oil price shock would play out today. They found that if the oil price doubled, as from $80 last year to $160 this year, it could lead to a cumulative loss of GDP of around £45 billion over 2 years. This is not just far-off speculation: it is a threat here and now. And the faster we move to a low carbon economy, the more secure and stable our economy will be,' he said.

In his speech, Huhne also said the UK needed to do 'everything we can at home' to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 'The best thing we can do to help adapt to climate change is to stop it happening in the first place. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure,' he said.

However, campaigners accused Huhne of 'hypocrisy' in continuing to promote and push for deeper and deeper offshore oil drilling and approving plans to search for oil in the Arctic region.

The UK recently approved oil exploration in the Shetlands, which could see drilling at depths in excess of 3,000m. Huhne was also present at the signing of a landmark deal between the Russian state oil company Rosneft and BP, which will allow the company to start exploiting oil reserves in the Arctic.

'He's promoting oil and by turning up at the BP deal he's giving his approval to exploit the most pristine environment in the world,' said Greenpeace climate campaigner Vicky Wyatt.

'He's given quite a good rhetoric on the cost to the UK economy of its dependence on oil and the importance of a switch to renewable energy, but everything he's doing is in terms of oil drilling is pointing the other way,' she added.

Greenpeace recently forced a judicial review of Huhne's decision to grant oil drilling licenses in deep waters off the Scottish coast. The campaign group say the decision was 'unlawful' as the government had 'failed to carry out an appropriate assessment of the risks new drilling poses to protected habitats and species following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

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