Onshore conventional oil and gas - call for evidence: analysis of responses
Independent analysis of responses to the 2022 call for evidence on onshore conventional oil and gas development in Scotland.
1. In June 2022, the Scottish Government issued a call for evidence on the exploration for, and development of, onshore conventional oil and gas in Scotland. Responses to the call for evidence were intended to inform the development of a preferred policy position on the future of onshore conventional oil and gas in Scotland, which will be included in the Scottish Government's forthcoming Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan (ESJTP).
2. The call for evidence invited views and evidence that would allow the Scottish Government to deliver a robust and fully-evidenced policy position in line with Scotland's energy needs, statutory requirements and climate change ambitions. Respondents were asked to address a single question:
- Considering the information presented in this call for evidence paper, and your own knowledge and experience, what are your views on the exploration for, and development of, onshore conventional oil and gas in Scotland?
3. The call for evidence received 24 responses from 15 organisations and 9 individuals. The main types of organisational respondents were oil and gas industry bodies, public sector bodies, academic and research groups and environmental organisations. The remaining organisational respondents comprised an independent grant giving body, an organisation focused on energy efficiency and clean energy solutions, and a faith group.
4. The responses ranged from short, single-point submissions to lengthier submissions presenting technical evidence and statistics. Eight respondents included references to third-party sources.
5. Respondents were divided in their views on the desirability of any future onshore conventional oil and gas development in Scotland. Nine respondents (5 individuals and 4 organisations) thought that onshore conventional oil and gas should have a role in Scotland's refreshed Energy Strategy, mainly for reasons of energy security and the perceived economic benefits of doing so. Twelve respondents (4 individuals and 8 organisations) opposed the development of onshore conventional oil and gas, mainly for reasons relating to climate change.
6. Three organisational respondents did not express a view for or against onshore conventional oil and gas development, but instead discussed issues relating to future information and data needs and the place of oil and gas in heritage / historical attractions.
Support for the development of onshore conventional oil and gas
7. Respondents who supported the development and extraction of onshore conventional oil and gas in Scotland gave two main reasons relating to: (i) energy security and (ii) climate change. They also highlighted potential economic benefits.
8. Regarding energy security, this group suggested that a domestic supply of oil and gas in Scotland would provide greater security in the context of uncertainties relating to the ongoing war in Ukraine and fluctuations in the worldwide price of oil and gas. They also argued that oil and gas production was necessary – at least in the short to medium term – until Scotland's energy needs could be fully met through renewables.
9. Regarding climate change, it was noted that onshore domestic oil and gas production would be less carbon intensive than off-shore production or importing oil and gas. This group also saw potential economic benefits for Scotland and local communities in terms of tax receipts and job creation.
Opposition to the development of onshore conventional oil and gas
10. Respondents opposed to the development of onshore conventional oil and gas in Scotland mainly highlighted the issue of climate change. Additional themes raised by this group related to: (i) energy security, (ii) perceived negative economic impacts, and (iii) the need for a just transition to a net zero economy.
11. In relation to climate change, this group argued that (i) any new onshore conventional oil and gas developments would be inconsistent with Scotland's stated climate change ambitions, (ii) pursuing such a policy would undermine Scotland's international obligations, and (iii) the Scottish Government's focus should continue to focus on developing and investing in renewables and other clean energy sources whilst supporting reductions in energy consumption.
12. Regarding energy security, this group thought onshore conventional oil and gas extraction would not give Scotland greater energy security since the resources available were likely to be small (based on historical drilling and previous borehole exploration) and because of the lengthy timescales between oil and gas exploration and production. This group also suggested that the global wholesale price of oil and gas was driving the current energy crisis and resulting in negative economic impacts. They commented a continued reliance on oil and gas was impoverishing people in Scotland.
13. In terms of creating a fair and just transition to a net zero economy, respondents in this group highlighted the importance of supporting oil and gas workers to retrain and obtain employment in other sectors. The importance of working towards a 'nature positive' just transition was also noted.
Other views and issues raised
14. Two academic / research bodies emphasised the importance of preserving and sharing historical information about Scotland's onshore geology, which has been produced in previous searches for, and the development of, onshore oil, gas and coal.
15. One respondent highlighted the role that the oil and gas industry has played in the 'story of modern Scotland' and suggested this role should be recognised as part of Scotland's transition away from fossil fuels. The residual requirement for oil and gas in Scotland's heritage attractions featuring historic machinery and modes of transportation was also noted.
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