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British Government Signals Support for Oil and Gas Industry

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The British government said Monday that it would issue “hundreds” of new licenses for oil and natural gas exploration in the North Sea, as concerns about energy security and jobs at least momentarily outweigh efforts to address climate change.

“It’s vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalize on that independence,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

At the same time, the government announced that it would support two major plans for capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and factories, and injecting the gas into depleted reservoirs under the North Sea. Such “carbon capture” projects tend to be mostly led by energy companies and make use of their expertise and infrastructure.

The announcements were an indication that the North Sea oil and gas industry is becoming an important battleground for Britain’s next general election, in 2024. The governing Conservative Party appears to have decided that protecting the industry could be a vote-winner over the opposition Labour Party, which has threatened to halt new drilling permits if…

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