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Ed Davey: UK should turn its back on gas ‘as quickly as possible’

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey is on a two-day visit to Scotland.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey is on a two-day visit to Scotland.

Britain should “get out of gas as quickly as possible” to become more energy independent, according to Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey.

The former UK energy secretary said the crisis in Ukraine and uncertainty over gas supplies does not make the case for more North Sea drilling.

Instead, he argues the UK needs to “dramatically ramp up our ambition on renewable power” to help make the country “more energy independent”.

Speaking to journalists during a two-day visit to Fife and Edinburgh, he said: “I think in the future we’ve got to get out of gas as quickly as possible both for energy security reasons, for climate change reasons and frankly for household heating bill reasons.

There is uncertainty over gas supplies as a result of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

“It’s often called the trilemma: the price issue, the security issue, the environmental climate change issue and sometimes there’s tensions amongst those issues.

“Actually this has shown they’re coming together. Getting out of gas so we don’t need to use so much gas to heat our homes because they’re better insulated, getting out of gas by going to renewables so we can reduce our dependency on gas and that will help climate change, it will help heating bills and it will make us more energy independent.”

Oil and gas prices are climbing while there are fears the crisis will disrupt supplies across the world.

Experts have already warned UK households face price surges as high as 35% in their gas bills because of the Russian attack.

What war in Ukraine could mean for you and the cost of living crisis

The Liberal Democrat leader said the UK is not facing gas supply issues and said any argument that expanding the UK’s own gas production would reduce the price of gas is “utter nonsense”.

He added: “Even at the height of North Sea oil and gas production, the UK was a price taker for gas.

“Gas prices are set in European and global markets, and compared to the main producers, we are a small producer of gas and even if there was more production in the North Sea, we would still be a price taker.

“I just think this notion that we suddenly need to rush to more production of gas misunderstands the situation that we’re facing both in the short and medium term.”

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said earlier this week that the “current geopolitical situation underlines the need for the security that domestic energy supplies provide”.

He also welcomed news the door has been left open for further North Sea drilling, following a report by the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The committee supports a “presumption against exploration” but stopped short of a ban, acknowledging that the government must factor in “additional important considerations, such as on energy security”.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen Lord Provost Barney Crockett, who is president of the World Energy Cities Partnership (WECP), said the reluctance to invest more in gas “greatly empowers Mr Putin”.

He added that “if we want to reduce the power of Mr Putin – awkward as it sounds given our decarbonisation plans – we’re going to have to start finding new oil and gas”.

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