North sea oil

It’s time to kickstart North Sea oil

It is reported this morning that one of Liz Truss’s first acts as prime minister, assuming she wins the Conservative party leadership election, will be to grant new licences for North Sea oil and gas extraction. But will it be enough – and quick enough – to alleviate the energy crisis? There are still substantial known oil and gas reserves in the North Sea left to be exploited. According to a report produced by the Oil and Gas Authority last September, known reserves of oil and gas in the North Sea at the end of 2020 amounted to 4.4 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE). This is just a tenth of

The irrational cruelty of the SNP’s nationalism

They can’t build a ferry, organise a census or keep the railways operating, but when it comes to organising a grievance campaign, nobody does it better than the SNP. This week saw perhaps the most impressive effort yet from team grievance as the SNP tried to turn the Chancellor’s announcement of a windfall tax on big oil companies into a Scotland-versus-the-rest-of-the-UK bun fight. Speaking on Sunday, SNP MP Kirsty Blackman complained:  It feels very unfair that Scotland is having to pay for the entirety of the UK. If Scotland was an independent country, the windfall tax would generate £1,800 for every household in Scotland. With most of the UK’s oil

The unlikely oilman

Algy Cluff is the longest-serving oilman in the North Sea. He was one of the first to drill for oil there, in 1972, and at the last government handout of drilling licences, two years ago, there he was again, making a handsome gas discovery. Now 76, he’s also the least likely oilman you can imagine. Tall, rangy, dressed in Savile Row pinstripes; he is no J.R. Ewing. His diffident, patrician voice is so gentle that I have to turn my tape recorder up to transcribe this interview. Cluff’s Who’s Who entry lists membership of 11 clubs. But there is no clubman stuffiness about him. He’s full of wonderful anecdotes, many

The Amber express

Amber Rudd isn’t a flashy politician; her office at the Department for Energy and Climate Change has almost no personal touches. She has a poster on the wall for the new Edinburgh tram (she was a student there). Her one concession to vanity is a framed ‘Minister of the Year’ award from this magazine: awarded for uprooting the legacy of the Liberal Democrat energy policy and being (in the words of the commendation) the ‘slayer of windmills’. It was, perhaps, an exaggeration: she hasn’t brought down any of Britain’s 5,215 onshore wind turbines. But she has been busy pruning back the green subsidies that her department had become used to

The Living Wage is nifty politics – but let’s see more help for small business too

What is George Osborne’s Living Wage? Is it a ploy to shift cost from the taxpayer to the employer by reducing in-work benefit claims; or a sop to Tory MPs who were bombarded with angry questions about earnings inequality during the election, as well as a neat way of turning one of Labour’s few effective lines of attack? Or is it a principled act of fairness, acknowledging that the lowest earners bore the brunt of the recent recession? Knowing how the Chancellor operates, it is probably all of the above except the last: he is, as Sir Samuel Brittan once remarked, ‘one of those people who do the right things

Fracking Lancashire

That democracy is a superior form of government to any other goes without saying. But in order to function, it has to be conducted in such a way and on such a scale as to ensure that the people or their elected representatives are making decisions based on genuine alternatives. With this week’s decision by Lancashire County Council to reject a second application for fracking on a site near Blackpool, something has gone seriously wrong. An important national issue has been allowed to be settled according to purely local concerns. Warned by their lawyers that there were no environmental or safety grounds for rejecting the application, councillors instead voted to

Santander’s secret: to conquer the world, stay like a small-town bank

Four years ago, I wrote that I knew no dark rumours about Santander, the rising force in UK high street banking, but that history taught me banks which expand rapidly and globally ‘always come unstuck in the end… partly because the challenge of risk control across such vast portfolios becomes impossible… Banks that have been driven by one powerful personality also tend to lose management grip, and start finding skeletons in cupboards, as the big man comes to the end of his tenure.’ The big man in question was third-generation chairman Emilio Botín — who died in post last week, aged 79. Santander is now Europe’s largest financial group, but