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MPs Should Back Infrastructure Bill

Monday, January 26, 2015

GMB Call On MPs To Support Infrastructure Bill In Parliament Today Warning Amendment Threatens North Sea Oil And Gas And UK Security

If we are going to use gas then we must consider carefully the moral obligation on UK to deal with the impact on the environment in extracting and using gas GMB tells MPs.

GMB, the union for gas and energy workers, called on MPs to support the Infrastructure Bill in the third reading today (26th Jan) in Parliament and warned that an amendment threatens North Sea oil and gas and UK energy security. See notes to editors 1 for copy of letter from GMB to MPs and note 2 for press release from UK Oil and Gas on threats to North Sea.

Later this week, on Friday 30th January, GMB is holding an International Conference on fracking in Blackpool. See notes to editors 3 for copy of GMB press release.

Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary for Energy and Utilities, says in the letter “The truth is this country will be using gas for many years to come and this throws up the challenge of where we get our gas from and whether we can use gas in a better way.

Having access to gas is a matter of national security. It also raises important moral issues that are yet to be debated properly; is it really right that we import gas from places like Russia or the Middle East, with all the environmental consequences transporting gas across oceans and continents has? Can it be right that we increasingly depend on gas from countries with regulatory and environmental standards lower than ours and where people don't have rights to object or protest, much less join unions?

If we are going to use gas, and the truth is we are, then surely we must consider carefully the moral obligation on us to deal with the impact we have on the environment in extracting and using gas.”  

End

Contact: Gary Smith 07710 618 909 or  Neil Smith 07740 804063 or Paul McCarthy 07740 804040 GMB Press Office 07921 289 880

Notes to editors

Note 1 GMB letter to MPs on Infrastructure Bill

On Monday 26th January 2015 you will be voting on the Infrastructure Bill. Our union believes this Bill is vital for the national interest and urges you to support it.

The offshore oil and gas industry is under a huge amount of pressure, as you know. Jobs in the North Sea oil and gas sector are haemorrhaging. The potential impact of job cuts in the North Sea have, in our view, been understated. Recent government research shows that 1 in 80 jobs in the UK are dependent on offshore oil and gas.

Much has been made of the positive economic implications from cuts in the price of oil and gas. However, for the GMB there is a wider and, currently, untold story about the consequences of cutting jobs in our offshore industries on workers, their families and communities. At a time of enormous uncertainty passing the Infrastructure Bill would bring a much-needed boost in confidence for the offshore oil and gas sector, and send a positive message to the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on it.

As you know, there has been an amendment tabled by members of the Environmental Audit Committee which seeks to impose a moratorium on fracking in this country. But this amendment also jeopardises jobs in the North Sea by removing references to a strategy to maximise economic recovery of UK petroleum – a key plank of the reforms proposed by Sir Ian Wood. Sir Ian Wood’s proposals are worth 3-4bn barrels of oil in the North Sea and would secure jobs and revenues. The GMB knows that fracking is highly contentious, but this amendment would also put at risk jobs in the North Sea.

In addition, there will be an amendment tabled by the Green Party which seeks to completely rule out fracking in our country. The GMB knows that fracking is highly contentious and we are still deliberating on our response to this issue. But, there is a truth we all need to confront; the vast majority of your constituents and people across the nation, and probably you too, use gas to heat their homes and cook. We choose to do this because we have a wonderful national gas infrastructure which gets gas to our homes efficiently. This infrastructure, like the gas appliances tens of millions of households depend upon, is kept safe by thousands of highly skilled professional GMB members. Above all we use gas because it is efficient and far cheaper than electricity.

The government's own research shows that electricity is set to get even more expensive than gas in years to come. The idea that your constituents are going to rip out their gas heating and replace it with electric heating, at a cost of thousands of pounds, and then tolerate their bills going up fourfold is nonsense. If our Party was to advocate such a course of action it would be electoral suicide.

Also, our gas pipelines transport 4 times as much energy as our electricity infrastructure. Any suggestion that it will be possible or affordable to move to a world of heating our homes, powering industry and public transport with electricity as the dominant energy source any time soon is nonsensical. The truth is this country will be using gas for many years to come and this throws up the challenge of where we get our gas from and whether we can use gas in a better way?

Having access to gas is a matter of national security. It also raises important moral issues that are yet to be debated properly; is it really right that we import gas from places like Russia or the Middle East, with all the environmental consequences transporting gas across oceans and continents has? Can it be right that we increasingly depend on gas from countries with regulatory and environmental standards lower than ours and where people don't have rights to object or protest, much less join unions? If we are going to use gas, and the truth is we are, then surely we must consider carefully the moral obligation on us to deal with the impact we have on the environment in extracting and using gas.

In terms of using gas more effectively, we have enclosed a briefing paper that we recently circulated to Members of Parliament who sat on the Infrastructure Bill Scrutiny Committee. If you can take a few minutes to read the paper you will see that gas, through Combined Heat and Power units and increasingly, fuel cells, represents a massive opportunity to transform how we heat our homes and generate electricity at a local level. This technology already works, it is viable and it generates low or zero emissions. We believe the development of CHP and fuel cells represent a potential revolution in how we heat our homes and generate electricity.

As you prepare to vote on the Infrastructure Bill and the fracking amendments from theEAC and the Green Party, we would ask you to consider the issues at stake very carefully. It would be premature to rule out the prospect of Fracking when we don't know if the industry is viable and, crucially, when so many of the issues around energy and security of supply remain unresolved. Nor we can afford any threat to Sir Ian Wood’s reforms to maximise economic recovery in the North Sea.

In our view, voting in support of their amendment would represent a total abdication of any moral responsibility this country has for dealing with the environmental consequence of extracting and using gas. We will simply be saying “we want and need gas, but will leave it to others to get it for us, no matter how it is done.” The honest conversation that, at times, has been lacking on energy policy, is that we will be using gas for many decades to come and this gas needs to come from somewhere. That is why we support amendments which make shale gas extraction conditional on meeting clear environmental requirements.

On behalf of the GMB, the thousands of our members who work in the industry, their families and their communities, I urge you to support the Infrastructure Bill and reject the EAC and Green Party’s amendment.

Note 2 Press release Oil & Gas UK dated Fri, 23 January 2015 |

Ill-informed political battle over fracking is threatening one of the UK’s most vital industries

The third and final reading of the Infrastructure Bill on Monday will be a crucial milestone on the way to securing the future of the UK’s valuable offshore oil and gas industry along with the hundreds of thousands of high skilled jobs, billions of pounds of investment and advanced technology it supports. The passing of the Bill will enshrine in law the objective of Maximising Economic Recovery UK (MER UK), a recommendation of Sir Ian Wood’s review of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) which enjoys consensus across the political spectrum.

There is a danger now that the Bill could be derailed by an unfortunate amendment conflating misguided views about the extraction of onshore unconventional oil and gas with ill-informed prejudice against the principles of maximising economic recovery of oil and gas reserves in the North Sea.

Malcolm Webb, Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, said: “Next month marks a year since the publication of Sir Ian Wood's report on the UKCS, the blueprint for maximising economic recovery of the North Sea’s oil and gas which was endorsed unanimously by industry and across the political sphere.

“The North Sea currently faces numerous challenges, including the recent slump in oil prices, so implementation of the Wood Report’s recommendations is needed more than ever. The passing of the Infrastructure Bill, including the MERUK initiative, is a crucial ingredient. It is extremely regretful that an ill-informed amendment, backed by the Environment Audit Committee, is being used to derail industry and cross-party efforts to maximise economic recovering of oil and gas from the North Sea, a principle that has cross party support.

“If this amendment is successful the future of the North Sea will be put into serious jeopardy, placing at risk our indigenous energy supply and leaving us more reliant on imports. Hundreds of thousands of UK jobs and the country’s place as a global leader in offshore engineering and technology would then also be in peril. I therefore urge MPs from all parties to preserve the cross party support that the Wood Report has so far enjoyed and to ensure that the Infrastructure Bill is approved on Monday.”

Sir Robert Smith MP stated:

“The oil and gas industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, a vast UK-wide supply chain and a vibrant export market. From subsea engineering to specialist skills training - the industry is a world leader in numerous fields.”

“The industry faced challenges before the fall in the price of oil. But the downturn means that the MER initiative needs to be enshrined in law as a matter of urgency.

“As we make the transition to renewable energy we will need gas as part of our energy mix. By supporting MER we can reduce our reliance on imported energy and high emission coal. We can also protect valuable jobs, continue to build on our highly diverse skills base and ensure that the export market remains anchored to the UK.”

Ends

Oil & Gas UK is the leading representative organisation for the UK offshore oil and gas industry. It’s growing membership, which comprises oil and gas producers and contractor companies, numbers more than 500.

For press enquiries, please contact Sally Hatch at shatch@oilandgasuk.co.uk or 0207 802 2404 or Helen Jackson at hjackson@oilandgasuk.co.uk or 0207 802 2405.

Note 3 GMB press release dated 22 Jan 2015

GMB INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FRACKING IN BLACKPOOL ON FRIDAY 30TH JANUARY

This conference provides an important platform for deliberations to arrive at a fixed policy on this important issue says GMB

GMB, the union for gas and energy workers, is holding an international conference on fracking in Blackpool on Friday 30th January 2015. See GMB website for copy of the agenda.

Speakers include Paul McCarthy – GMB Regional Secretary in the North West, Mike Hill – C.Engineer MIET, Peter Styles – Professor of Applied & Environmental Geo Physics at Keele University, Barbara Keeley – MP, Sean Sweeney – Co-Director Global Labor Institute at Cornell University, New York, Mark Lappin – Centrica, Tony Bosworth – Friends of the Earth, Gordon Marsden – MP, Ken Cronin – UKOOG United Kingdom onshore Oil and Gas and Gary Smith GMB National Secretary for Energy and Commercial Services.

Paul McCarthy, GMB Regional Secretary in the North West, said “This conference has been convened by GMB North West and Irish Region to hear all the issues on both sides of this argument.

GMB as the direct successor to the Gas Workers & General Union formed over 125 years ago has a direct interest in the gas industry. This conference provides an important platform for GMB deliberations to arrive at a fixed policy on this important issue”.

Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary for Energy, said "GMB is still working through our policy on fracking.

I will tell the conference that the fact is that UK will be using gas for many decades to come. The gas is going to have to come from somewhere and we need to consider whether it is morally right to import gas from countries like Russia, Qatar, with lesser environmental regulations than here and that have no labour rights to protect workers in the industry or to protect safety. Transporting gas across continents is no good for the environment either.

So the issue really is if we are going to use gas as we are - should we be taking responsibility for our own carbon and wider impact on the environment or take the approach out of sight out of mind."  

End

 

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