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Daily Telegraph columnist has tantrum about North Sea oilfield

Say what you like about the Daily Telegraph, which generally tilts centre-right in its politics and economics (particularly with incisive writers such as Allister Heath and Matthew Lynn), it does not seem to enforce orthodoxy. While the leader column and Heath have both applauded the UK government’s decision to permit oil drilling in the large Rosebank field in the North Sea – and mocked the fulminations of the critics, there were fulminations in the DT’s business section. An example comes from Ben Marlow, a columnist whose portrait glares out, Medusa-like, at a foolish and fallen world.

Marlow describes the timing of the announcement as “comically bad” and immediately shows his climate alarmism colours by noting that the announcement came a day after the International Energy Agency had warned that any new oil and gas infrastructure was incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreements of limiting global warming to 1.5 C. The new oil field is expected to produce as much as 500 million barrels of oil over its lifetime. Marlow goes on to state that bringing this oil field into production will do “none of the things that ministers and its cheerleaders claim”, and went on to berate the Conservatives for their alleged failure to cover the UK in solar panels and windfarms. And he went on to attack the government for sowing “confusion” among carmakers by putting back the ban on new internal combustion cars by 5 years to 2035. Further, he mocked the idea that producing more oil has any real benefits to the UK, saying that the oil goes into the world market. He does, rightly, criticise UK governments past and present for being weak on nuclear energy, but overall, Marlow’s column is a noisy example of green tantrum-throwing in an otherwise relatively sane newspaper. I wonder what his employers make of him?

So let’s examine Marlow’s central point, that the opening of this oilfield is a blow to the environment and won’t fix anything for the UK. Well, he ignores that some oil/gas fields will and have come out of production as the oil and gas gets too expensive to extract, reducing the commercial case for it, so if this is replaced by newer fields, that doesn’t necessarily increase the total amount of oil and gas in production. And even if it does, he’s assuming a straight-line link between increased C02 emissions, and increases in the average temperature of the planet. From my reading, there is a law of diminishing returns in nature, as in economics. Every extra ton of C02 produces less of a warming impact than the preceding one. Further, there is global “greening” to consider – although there’s a law of diminishing returns on that when it comes to the link with carbon emissions, I suspect, too.

And considering that he’s a business correspondent and editor, Marlow seems curiously uninterested in how, for example, developing this big oil field will generate export earnings for the UK, and a lot of tax revenue for the government. (On the latter point, this isn’t an argument that I know classical liberals would want to make much of.) The UK has to import a lot of stuff, such as natural gas from the Middle East and so on. Exports are what we need for imports. If the UK’s balance of payments improves, it benefits us in the ability to import more of what we want. As for the government, more revenues give it more ability to encourage R&D and the like in areas such as modular nuclear power plants, etc. Even for those who aren’t carbon fuel catastrophists, we can acknowledge that if we want to shift towards nuclear fission and fusion, and potentially as yet undiscovered sources, that requires a ton of wealth.

Marlow’s mockery of the UK’s supposed tardiness over wind and solar is again a reminder that the battery storage issue just doesn’t register. Without storage, the intermittency problem with wind/sun energy is a killer. (The writer Alex Epstein and others have made this point.) Marlow, and others who share his views, really have no excuses to not directly address this point and explain how they’d handle it.

A final point: The huge budget overruns and delays on the HS2 rail project from London to the North are surely another reminder to journalists who talk a big game about “infrastructure” that the UK’s record of delivering things on time, and on budget, is appalling. Rishi Sunak, whatever else he is, is not an idiot. He knows that the 2030 mark for banning sales of new ICE vehicles was and is insane. All he needs to do to win that cigar from this blog is to reverse the policy completely. Then stand back and watch Mr Marlow’s head explode.

15 comments to Daily Telegraph columnist has tantrum about North Sea oilfield

  • Paul Marks

    Why does the Daily Telegraph employ Mr Marlow? Pretending that a country with the vast population of the United Kingdom, now swelled by millions of immigrants (over years and decades of broken promises to end mass immigration), can be maintained by wind turbines and solar cells, is absurd – utterly absurd.

    Just calling yourself “right wing” or “conservative” does not mean that ordinary conservative people have to buy your newspaper, for example the Wall Street Journal never recovered in Arizona after pretending that the election of 2022 was not rigged – ordinary people do not have to buy your newspaper (or watch your television station – Fox News please note), spit in their faces and they will not buy your newspaper any more.

    This also applies to political candidates – such as the Republican candidates last night.

    The people want to know what will be done to end election fraud – to end ballot fraud. The candidates (and the pathetic Fox News) said nothing. And the people want to know what will be done to restore honest courts – how can people do business, or even just live, in a country where the legal system (both Federal and in many States) is so corrupt – where it serves the Corporate State. Again nothing from the candidates – or from the pathetic Fox News.

    “We had to pay vast sums of money for mentioning election rigging” – no you did not “have to” pay anything, for example One American News said that if anyone took them to court they would play the evidence of election fraud live in the court room (daring any corrupt judge to stop them), the people threatening legal action backed off. You paid vast sums of money either because you are cowards, or because the Murdoch family have connections with the American “intelligence community” – and not want honest elections, or an honest legal system.

    Everything is corrupt – including the temperature figures for various parts of the world that American government agencies produce (Tony Heller, and others, have fun pointing out just how fake this “data” is) – and people have had enough of the corruption.

    And I make no apology for pointing out again that the corruption, both in the United States and the United Kingdom, started with money and banking – the corruption of everything else, including “Climate” data, came after that, and was pushed by a system where economic and political power is concentrated in the hands of a small international elite.

    Ordinary people have had enough of all this – on January 6th 2021 about a million people went to protest against the rigged election of 2020, of this million (or there-abouts) a tiny proportion went on to the Capitol building – egged on by agitators employed by the FBI and other government agencies.

    There was no “insurrection” as the people left their firearms at home – an “unarmed insurrection” is the same as “dry water”, there is no such thing. A million people turning up with firearms would have been very different thing- then the “Administrative State”, the FBI and so on, might have ended up hanging from lamp posts, people did NOT want to do that, they still thought that protest might achieve results.

    But if Republican candidates continue to have “debates” where they do not even mention how they are going to restore honest elections and an honest legal system, then the establishment (the Corporate State – including the “Republican” wing of it) may get the “insurrection” they endlessly provoke.

    And, yes, American government agencies must stop producing wildly dishonest “climate data” and agencies and individuals in other parts of the world must stop mindlessly following the lying American government agencies.

  • Paul Marks

    There is a philosophical foundation for all this corruption – and it is NOT Marxism.

    The philosophical foundation for all the corruption, including the rigged “Climate Data”, is Pragmatism (big P).

    The Pragmatist philosophers taught that there was no such thing as objective morality – moral right and wrong, and even that there was no such thing as objective truth.

    People, such as the establishment elite (not just American – international) who are saturated with this philosophy, and they are (even if they have never heard of John Dewey and the others) are going to lie and lie and lie.

    All that will matter to them, will be what mattered to Richard Ely (the mentor to both “Teddy” Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – and declared a “saint”, or the American Episcopalian version of one) POWER.

    Total POWER – world POWER.

    The people behind such things as the 1992 Rio Conference did not really care about C02 emissions – their aim was world “governance”, David Rockefeller and the others made that very clear. For example, Dr Klaus Schwab was pushing “Stakeholder Capitalism” (the international Corporate State) back in his 1971 book – the idea that this was a reaction to the C02 is evil theory, is just not true.

    If they “have to” lie about “Climate Data” or rig elections, in order to achieve this aim, that is what they will do.

    The concentration of economic power, due to the fiat money and Credit Bubble finance (the Cantillon Effect), has allowed a small group of people to have a strangle hold on the Western world.

    This has to be ended – it has to stop.

  • David

    Growers can pump in co2 at up to 1,000 ppm to improve the yields of what’s grown. The Ontario government website has a bit about it.

  • Y. Knott

    A small “well, ACK-sherally…” for you, Mr. Pearce. I’m getting the idea that there is little, if any Law of Diminishing Returns for global greening. Photosynthetic plants have an insane hunger for CO2; and the more of it they get, the happier they are and the faster they grow. The following picture illustrates, and there are several others readily available.

    For those of you who enjoy a glass of fine wine (WARNING – I don’t – the stuff could be plonk for all I know, and they don’t sell it here anyway), a Washington State winery offers a wine they call “The Denier”. I got their site from WattsUpWithThat; they point-out that 95% of the non-water weight of a grape is directly due to atmospheric CO2.

    And when you think of it, all those vast coalfields that dot the planet suggest that there was once a much higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and much more verdant plant life. And its causing global warming? – Svante Arrhenius was pontificating this in the 1800’s, and the consensus reached then was that each doubling of CO2 causes one extra degree of warming. So not much to be concerned about – a massive increase of CO2 could make Canadian winters quite pleasant. I can hardly wait…

  • rhoda klapp

    ..and all the known fossil fuels available are not sufficient to get to 1,000 ppm so global greening will not suffer from diminishing returns.

  • KJP

    I have doubted the opinion of Ben Marlow on many occasions.

    Is the oil from the North Sea worse than oil from anywhere else in the world by any measure? To put it in context Guyana has discovered nearly 11 billion barrels of offshore crude reserves. More oil might be used in the developing world but in the UK it will just be replacement. The economic benefits of home production seem obvious.

    The intermittency and unreliability of solar and wind seem to be insurmountable problems at the moment and for the foreseeable future.

    I do have some sympathy for the carmakers. If ICE cars cannot be sold beyond 2030 then there is no reason to develop new ones in 2023 as they will not come to market until 2027 giving only three years’ production to recoup development costs and make a profit. However, the UK market is small compared to the global one.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Paul Marks, I am not sure I have to buy into the whole “stolen elections” and excuses for what happened on Jan 6, 2021, to accept that even parts of the centre-right MSM have been far too easy on the climate alarmist agenda. The Wall Street Journal has been consistently good on this, particularly noting the contradictions and absurdities of Net Zero and the targets set. Whether or not Rupert Murdoch has been “bought” to give a blind eye to Green hysteria is, frankly, not something that can be easily proved. Without supporting evidence, it is supposition.

    The problem is that whenever a discussion about foolish energy policy is surrounded by shouts about “stolen elections”, bribed news organisation tycoons, or whatever, any neutral observer will just switch off and dismiss this as the ravings of kooks. Fortunately, more and more people are coming around to realise that AGW alarmism damages living standards of the public, and no amount of fearmongering seems to be working any longer. I sense a turning in the atmosphere. You can almost smell it.

  • DiscoveredJoys

    The question to ask yourself about an individual’s actions (for example Mr Marlow), or an organisations’ actions is “Who benefits?”.

    Does a ‘consensus journalist’ or a ‘contrarian journalist’ get more than their continued employment out of a stated position? Or are they ‘mercenary journalists’ hired to do hit pieces at the behest of others?

    At one time journalists were just reporting news and editors added an opinion. Nowadays there is little news reported other than as a bearer for the expression of opinions. Even contrary and conspiracy reporting are pressed into service to validate ‘how sane’ the consensus is.

    We deserve better – but it doesn’t suit the interests of The Powers That Be to permit that.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think the key point here, made by Konstantin Kisin in his famous Oxford Union speech is that if Britain sank into the sea tomorrow and stopped all its greenhouse emissions it would have absolutely no impact at all on “global warming” since, even its most pessimistic prognosticators tell us it contributes less than 1%, which is to say, below the statistical noise.

    This is simply irrefutable evidence that the British net zero project is all about what it looks like rather than expecting any real benefit.

    Moreover, the reason he wants to keep this oil off the global market is to cause oil prices to go up, because that is what happens when you reduce supply. Which sounds very nice except for the fact that the people who suffer the most with increased energy prices are the poor. Even the relatively not poor poor of western countries are very heavily impacted. Here in the US gas prices are roughly double where they were when Biden took charge (or at least moved into the Whitehouse, “took charge” seems to be asking a bit more of him than we can reasonably expect.) People on the lower end of the income scale tend to live paycheck to paycheck, so doubling the cost of a major part of their expenses, namely food and gas, is crushing.

    Net Zero is the ultimate elitist project. All self righteous posturing, aggressive stamping on those who dare to disagree, the rich getting richer off the whole boondoggle, and the poor being crushed under the cost. And worst of all, the gaslighting so that the poor demand it the most like some medieval self flagellant.

  • GregWA

    The turnaround on nuclear power by some (many? most?) on the Left might be the only good thing to come from the Climate Scare Scandal. In fact, it might be so good that it makes up for most of the damage done by destroying fossil fuel resources and investing in wind, solar, and unicorn farts! OK, it can’t quite make up for that multi-trillion dollar crime. But the resurgence of nuclear power investment and general political support is one of the few things going on that gives me hope.

  • @KJP –

    Is the oil from the North Sea worse than oil from anywhere else in the world by any measure?

    Arguably it is cleaner than a lot of the Oil / tar / bituminous sands that are used as the source of crude oil in Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Venezuela. The amount of processing required to extract a viable “crude” from these sources is substantial and is why their is a lower limit to their financial viability (approx $50 / barrel give-or-take).

    By comparison, sources of crude such as North Sea Oil fields are relatively “clean” (not requiring excessive pre-processing to produce crude oil).

  • Johnathan Pearce

    @John Galt, good points. Also, one reads people dismiss the case for opening new North Sea fields on the basis that the oil is for the “global market”, not for the UK. First, one problem the UK has caused itself, worsened by the whole anti-fossil fuel stance of big investment firms, banks, and governments, is lack of fresh investment in oil and gas refineries and processing. Second, there’s no reason why, if there were to be a serious issue, the UK government could not demand that a set proportion of NS production goes into the domestic UK market. The UK already taxes this industry (arguably, far too highly), it is not beyond the wit of the Treasury to work out a way to force some of that production to benefit domestic UK consumers.

    And to repeat, the opening of new oil fields means this country earns more money that we can use to buy other stuff, invest in new technologies and resources. The moral scolds who demand that this oil be left in the ground, so as to make a tiny difference to overall trends in production, is beyond silly. It is ideological madness.

  • Martin

    The oddest economics writer in the Telegraph is Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. He seems to oscillate between writing some of the most sensible columns in the paper (often on Europe) and then writing some of the most insane ones (often on energy/green issues/USA).

  • JohnK


    I agree about AEP. Much of what he writes can be good sense, but he is a green fanatic. I cannot understand how anyone with any sense can fall for this scam, unless someone is paying.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Anyone who talks about replacing fossil fuels with renewables is lying. It is a lie by omission, as renewables require energy storage to adequately replace reliable energy.

    It’s the energy storage that is the problem, not only is it inefficient, you need to build multiple amounts of the energy production to store energy in the first place, your 1GW powe station can’t be replaced by a 1GW wind farm, it would be much bigger, and with the energy storage infrastructure, an absolutely massive amount of building.

    The UK has just reached a point where wind power can provide all electricity but only if the wind is right, we are a long way from wind providing all energy all the time.