Letter: Alternatives to oil

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Following the ruling that the Government has failed to uphold the EU Habitats Directive in its awarding of offshore oil licences, Martin Copsey asks, "Will Greenpeace now assume responsibility for the redundancy payments to oil industry workers who lose their jobs?" (letters, 8 November.)

The skills of the oil industry could easily be converted to exploiting the UK's rich potential for renewable energy, and create a net gain in jobs. The North-east of England, with its long history of heavy manufacturing and offshore work, provides an ideal site to develop a successful offshore wind industry. Over 30,000 new jobs could be created if the Government committed to an initial, readily achievable target of just 10 per cent of our electricity from offshore wind in the next ten years.

A renewable energy study in the United States shows that for every million dollars spent on oil and gas exploration, only 1.5 jobs are created. But for every million spent on making solar water heaters, 14 jobs are created. For manufacturing solar electricity panels, 17 jobs. For electricity from biomass and waste, 23 jobs.

Then there is the question of greenhouse gas emissions. Using figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it can be shown that we can afford to burn no more than one quarter of existing fossil fuel reserves without causing significant ecological damage, including major food production losses in vulnerable parts of the world. As emissions continue to rise, there is an increasing incidence of devastating storms and severe droughts.

The question Mr Copsey should perhaps be raising is, "How will the oil industry compensate those hundreds of millions of people whose lives and livelihoods are at risk from climate change?"