Blair: Energy as important as defence

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Tony Blair has warned that security of energy supply will become almost as crucial an issue for this country as defence.

The Prime Minister was speaking as he marked the official opening of Langeled gas pipeline from Norway, which will provide about 20 per cent of the UK's gas needs for the next 30 years.

Mr Blair said: "Without action to ensure reliable supplies and replace power plants, there will be a dramatic shortfall in our energy capacity and risks to our energy security over the next few decades. We are determined to create the right infrastructure in order to meet the challenges of the next century."

He said energy issues were at the top of every meeting of world leaders now. "In the future, energy security will be almost as important as defence," Mr Blair told a gathering of British and Norwegian officials and industry executives, including Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, in London.

"Norway is, and is set to remain, the biggest supplier of imported gas to the UK, at a time when Britain is looking abroad for more of its energy needs," Mr Blair said.

By 2020, the British Government has forecast, some 80 per cent of the country's gas will be imported. The 750-mile Langeled link is the world's longest subsea gas pipeline.

Separately, the Department of Trade and Industry published a consultation document containing seven proposals to improve the UK's security of gas supply. Among the ideas in the paper was the proposal that suppliers' obligations, to ensure that domestic customers continue to receive gas even under severe winter conditions, could be extended to industrial customers too.