April Fools’ Day is nearly here but jokes and pranks will be far from people’s minds.
Those are the opening words in a press releasei dated 21st March 2022, and are written by Dr Andy Samuel, Chief Executive of the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).
What on earth is the North Sea Transition Authority? Well, it’s what used to be known as the Oil & Gas Authority. As its website saysii:
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) was established to regulate the UK oil and gas industry, in conjunction with other regulatory authorities, and has a range of powers to deliver this remit.
Despite being primarily charged with regulating the oil and gas industry, it seems it’s just too embarrassing to retain any reference to oil and gas in its title. As Steve Baker is quoted in the Sunday Telegraphiii as saying:
It sends worrying signals that the UK’s oil and gas regulator daren’t now use the words ‘oil’ or ‘gas’ in its title.
The NSTA’s websiteiv tells us:
The Petroleum Act 1998 vests all rights to the UK’s petroleum resources in the Crown and provides the NSTA with the power to grant licences that confer exclusive rights to ‘search and bore for and get’ petroleum. Each of these licences confers such rights over a limited area and for a limited period.
The Act also puts into statute the principal objective of maximising the economic recovery of the UK’s offshore oil and gas resources (by way of the Infrastructure Act 2015).
Or, as Dr Samuel put it in the press release:
Our organisation was founded as the Oil and Gas Authority in 2015, tasked with maximising the value of the oil and gas industry.
But hey, who cares about that? Or about the need for energy security? A war in Ukraine, putting pressure on oil and gas prices?
No, what matters is this:
Last year, we revised our strategy to fully incorporate net zero in our decision making. We are now becoming the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to reflect our expanded role, which includes emissions monitoring and carbon storage licensing.
Perfect timing! Especially given this (from the press release again):
The energy Trilemma of security, affordability and sustainability is not a new phenomenon. However, the amount of attention the constituent parts receive is rarely balanced.
Well, you can certainly say that again. Until recently nobody in authority seemed to give two hoots about energy security or affordability – net zero was apparently all that mattered. And we could be forgiven for thinking that not much has changed. The press release ends with a depressing conclusion, from which (as with the name change) it is apparent that net zero still trumps the affordability and security of UK energy:
COP26 reinforced the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of sustainability, the recent rise in global energy demand brought affordability to the forefront, and the war in Ukraine has put security of supply in the spotlight. Finding the right pathway to net zero, and showing sound leadership, means always keeping all three in mind. The Deal strikes the right balance. The NSTA will continue to work with government, industry and other regulators to ensure it is upheld and play our full part in the transition.
April Fool’s Day is indeed almost here. The name change and press release might usefully have been delayed until then. Unfortunately the joke is on us.