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‘Complete madness’ to abandon North Sea gas in Ukraine crisis, warns Tory minister

A senior Tory warned against halting North Sea gas production.
A senior Tory warned against halting North Sea gas production.

A senior Tory minister has warned against completely halting North Sea gas production as he backed new nuclear power projects at a time of crisis.

Business chief Kwasi Kwarteng claimed it would be “complete madness” to abandon gas fields in Britain while heating bills soar.

It’s feared energy costs across Europe could increase even further in months to come as countries ditch Russian gas due to the ongoing Ukraine invasion.

While Mr Kwarteng said Britain is not reliant on Russia for energy, he admitted the UK could be hit by rising market costs.

He said it was crucial gas fields continue to operate in Scotland meantime and added nuclear plants could help in the long-term shift away from fossil fuels.

It comes just days after a senior SNP MSP urged his party to “maximise” oil and gas production during the Ukraine crisis.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng.

Former Scottish Government minister Fergus Ewing admitted new gas fields could be beneficial for Scotland despite the SNP’s drive towards renewable energy instead.

Mr Kwarteng said on Monday: “The North Sea is our single largest source of gas, with the bulk of our imports coming from reliable Norway.

“Unlike Europe, we’re not reliant on Russian gas. But like others, we are vulnerable to high prices set by markets.

“The UK has no gas supply issues. The situation we are facing is a price issue, not a security of supply issue.

“Put simply: we have lots of gas from highly diverse and secure sources – but it is very expensive.”

‘Long-term solution’

He added: “We’ll continue to back North Sea gas for energy security. It would be complete madness to turn off our domestic source of gas.

“But the long-term solution is obvious: gas is more expensive than renewable energy, so we need to move away from gas.

“Firstly, new nuclear. Needed when the the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

“We are reversing 30 years of drift with the first new power station in a generation, more cash for future large projects, and our Nuclear Bill to unblock financial obstacles.”

SNP opposition to nuclear power

The UK Government drive for new nuclear power stations comes after one of the last plants in Scotland were shut.

Hunterston B in Ayrshire was closed for good in January, while Torness in East Lothian is to be decommissioned in 2028.

The SNP repeatedly said nuclear power is “poor value” for Scots and said there were difficulties surrounding waste storage.

But it emerged earlier this month they had failed to carry out any modelling into the closure of remaining stations.

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