UK to grant North Sea oil and gas licenses despite criticism from environmentalists

Animal News : Britain to grant North Sea oil and gas licenses despite criticism from environmentalists
North Sea oil rig, photo: Canva

The United Kingdom (UK) government on Monday revealed its commitment to future licensing for North Sea oil and gas extraction, despite criticism from animal welfare and environmental campaigners.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed plans for more than 100 licenses that have already attracted bids earlier this year. Extracting oil and gas from the North Sea starts with seismic surveys, which means sending shock waves into the seabed. The way these waves bounce back provides information about the geological structures below, helping to identify promising locations for drilling.

Drilling for oil and gas lead to physical disturbances in the sea floor and marine habitats. Noise from drilling, shipping, and other activities can affect marine mammals like whales, dolphins, and seals, potentially altering their behaviors, migratory patterns, and reproductive success.

Speaking to BBC Radio, Sunak defended his decision arguing that Britain must avoid reliance on foreign powers for its energy needs. “We don’t want to be in hock to dictators like that when it comes to our energy. An important part of guarding against that is investing in our North Sea,” he said.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the regulator overseeing this process, expects to award the first of the new licenses this autumn, currently evaluating 115 bids from producers in an ongoing licensing round that closed in January.

Environmental groups argue that the licenses contradict the urgent global push to reduce fossil fuel consumption in the fight against climate change.

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