Fossil fuel platform in the North Sea. Platforms like these could be dotted across the Rosebank field in the coming years. Photo: NAC/cc
Fossil fuel platform in the North Sea. Platforms like these could be dotted across the Rosebank field in the coming years. Photo: NAC/cc

Duncan Moore, Plymouth Socialist Party

The Tory government has granted a licence for big oil companies to extract oil and gas from Rosebank, the largest untapped oil field in the North Sea.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak claims that another domestic source of fossil fuels will help to protect Britain from soaring prices, in case of a future energy supply shock; like the one that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This is nonsense. Britain’s oil and gas sector is privatised; which means that the UK has no control over who buys the oil or at what price, set by international markets. Opening up Rosebank will not reduce the price of energy one jot, at your electricity meter or at the petrol station, unless the government enforces price controls making oil companies sell to UK consumers at less than the market value. Unsurprisingly, neither the Tories or Starmer’s Labour are going to impose these price controls.

Who will benefit?

In 2022, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and TotalEnergies made $134 billion profits on top of what they would normally expect. Meanwhile, over a thousand extra deaths were recorded in the UK last winter, mostly elderly and sick people living in cold homes.

The grasping fingers of the energy companies digging into the Rosebank oil field will not solve the cost-of-living crisis we are all facing. It will make the Tories’ rich pals even richer while we continue to struggle.

The energy companies’ thirst for profits is making the rest of us poorer, and at the same time bringing us closer to a climate disaster. This summer saw new record-breaking temperatures, thousands dead from floods and wild fires, and a terrifying outbreak of extreme weather events.

The wealth and resources are clearly there to produce the energy we need from renewable sources, without digging out more dirty fossil fuels, to reverse climate change. It’s a question of who owns and controls it.

The Socialist Party calls for the nationalisation of the banks and big businesses that dominate the economy, including the energy and fossil fuel companies, under democratic workers’ control and management. This would mean workers themselves would be able to use their skills and knowledge to help transition to renewable energy generation without losing out on jobs and livelihoods.

In this, trade unions have a crucial role to play in fighting for well-paid jobs in renewable energy. The strikes of Unite members on North Sea oil rigs over pay show the power these workers hold when they act collectively.

The Socialist Party stands for guaranteed jobs and pay for workers in polluting industries, as part of a socialist plan of production drawn up democratically by workers here and across the world. The wealth and resources exist to produce what is needed to provide a good standard of living for all people, without polluting the planet. If you want to fight for such a world, get in touch and join us.