Simon Roach's blog

The UK’s Oil Industry is Increasingly in the Hands of Unaccountable US Companies - That's a Problem

North Sea rig

After global oil prices slumped dramatically in 2014, many energy giants such as Shell and BP decided to sell off their “mature assets” in the North Sea. 

Now, the operation of aging fossil fuel infrastructure in the once profitable region is increasingly being taken over by private companies, analysis by DeSmog UK shows — raising concerns over transparency and accountability in the region. 

Four of the five largest sales since 2015 have been to private companies, DeSmog UK has found, with three of those backed by money from US private equity firms. 

Whereas companies listed on public stock exchanges are accountable to their shareholders and the public – through legal requirements such as annual reports and corporate financial disclosure – privately held companies have fewer legal obligations and can aggressively pursue long-term profit. 

Scotland Promises to Ban Fracking 'Indefinitely'

A frack pad

The Scottish government has said fracking is set to be permanently banned following “overwhelming” public support for outlawing the controversial process, it was announced today.

Unlike in England, fracking has been under a temporary halt in Scotland since 2015, and an extensive public consultation on its long-term future was carried out earlier this year.

Speaking to members of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, the Scottish environment minister Paul Wheelhouse said the ban should be extended “indefinitely” and that “the Scottish Government will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland”.

Are Costs Being Put Before Environment in Scottish Ship Oil Transfer Plans?

Wildlife at risk with new ship-to-ship oil transfers in Scotland

A proposal is expected this autumn for tankers in the north east of Scotland to transfer up to nine million tonnes of crude oil per year between ships at open sea.

But the chosen waters, Cromarty Firth, hold special conservation status as the area is the UK’s only breeding site left for the rare bottlenose dolphin, as well as being home to porpoise, seals and an array of birdlife.

And campaigners are asking questions about government transparency and cost cutting measures after investigations raised concerns about the way a first application was handled by government.

North Sea Oil Workers Vote to Strike as Industry Profits Decline

North Sea Oil

A section of offshore oil workers in the North Sea voted for industrial action this week following a protracted dispute over pay and working conditions, but recent union laws may mean the numbers aren’t enough to support a strike.

A large majority of GMB union members voted in favour of the strike motion in response to the last round of negotiations with the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA) breaking down in April.

Declining profits in the North Sea have meant the offshore workforce has already suffered a number of redundancies and pay cuts in recent years. As jobs are increasingly threatened, union members working under the OCA have rejected a latest pay offer which would see their wages fall after inflation is accounted for.

The Conservative party has pledged to do all it can to keep the industry going as the oil fields dry up. But unionists and campaigners are concerned not enough is being done to help communities transition to greener jobs as the industry winds down and the UK progresses towards its low carbon goals.

Is There Hope for the Climate in Scotland After Election Shake-Up?

Scotland election 2017

For the UK Conservative party, Scotland will be seen as one of the few successes of an otherwise miserable 2017 general election campaign.

Despite the loss an overall parliamentary majority and Prime Minister Theresa May’s failed plan to transform her party’s huge poll lead to a domineering presence in Westminster, the Tories somersaulted their 2015 election win of a single Scottish seat, this time taking 13.

This is the biggest surge since the Tory’s Scottish collapse following the 1980s, and will leave many – in a country vastly proud of its anti-Tory stance – wondering what happened.

North Sea Workers’ Strike Shows Region Unprepared for Future Without Oil

Oil rig worker in silouette

With global oil prices in decline and the UK’s oil reserves in the North Sea dwindling, tensions over pay for those working in the industry are inevitable. Throw in the UK’s existing commitments to decarbonise the economy and you’ve got a conflicting tripartite between boss, worker and the climate - all three kicking in different directions.

Who takes the financial hit of a sector in decline is as much in question as the long-term viability of the industry itself.

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