Greenwashing to Pump More Oil

February 12, 2023

£23 billion in profits. Expanding oil and gas production in the midst of the climate emergency. It’s not exactly ‘Beyond Petroleum’ is it?

More than 20 years after BP’s rebranding exercise everyone can see the greenwashing for what it always was: propaganda to pump more oil.  Oil and gas giants are not going to ‘see the light’ and switch to renewables – and this Government isn’t going to make them.

A Windfall Tax that allows fossil fuel companies to generate record profits during an energy price crisis is clearly not doing its job.  The loopholes are large enough to sail an oil tanker through. It’s no wonder they are being taken advantage of – they get tax credits for opening up new gas and oil fields.  Both BP and Shell were handed more money from the Government than they paid in tax every year between 2015 and 2020.   (Except 2017 when Shell paid more than it received).

Young people get this injustice. On Wednesday I was at Newcastle Sixth Form College for a special youth version of Mayor’s Question Time. I’ve done loads of these events for adults. The principle is simple. I was directly-elected by the people, so the people get to speak with me directly. And that does mean all the people – I want to hear from you even if you were too young to vote in 2019 when I was first elected.

Climate change is always one of the first topics young people raise with me.  And they’re well informed. One asked me, “is it true that BP used to be publically owned?”  Yes.  The Thatcher government privatised it in stages between 1979 and 1987. That £23 billion could have been funding our public services. Or installing wind farms. Or reducing our bills.  Or a mix of all that.

I’m not surprised young people are so interested. It’s their future. In the 2060s my sons will be the same age as I am now. Unless we fix this, by then the North East coast will be under attack from rising sea levels. Blyth underwater. Jarrow and Gateshead regularly flooded.

But fix it how? Governments and global corporations won’t act. Individuals can feel powerless when fossil fuel giants  heat our planet like some all-consuming Death Star.

That’s why our ‘Rebel Alliance’ brings together people and organisations that want to fight back against climate damage. Net Zero North East England is working for greener, cleaner, fairer region. And in the North of Tyne we’re at the heart of it with our investments in renewable energy, green skills, retrofit, schools and community projects. All underpinned by our Green New Deal Fund that makes money available to help charities, local businesses and public bodies decarbonise. 

It’s an alliance in the best sense. Not just zero-carbon, but zero-poverty. A just transition to a green economy that leaves no one behind.

Housing accounts for 34% of our greenhouse gas emissions. The North East has some of the oldest and leakiest buildings in Europe.

We know there are 140,000 homes in Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland that leak energy, because we’ve surveyed them. We know 84% of our homes are gas-heated. We need better insulation, and alternatives to fossil fuels for cooking and heating.

Back in October I set our region’s entrepreneurs a challenge. With funding available for small local businesses that can find solutions.

And from what I’ve seen so far, our region’s entrepreneurs are rising to that challenge.  That’s why I’m excited to meet twenty one of those entrepreneurs on Valentine’s Day and see the products and processes they’ve developed. 

Free Flow Power can fit mini-hydro dynamos to residential pipes to generate electricity. Your very own personal turbine!

Brightblue Studio have developed ‘skins’ to cover windows to reduce heat loss. Making a version of double-glazing affordable to large numbers of people.

Dragonfly Insulation have patented an easily applied gel insulation to make homes warmer and cheaper to heat.

The more I see of these ideas the more confident I am that the North East will be the beating heart of the Green Industrial Revolution – creating jobs and delivering the tools to dig us out of this hole.

So BP – stop digging.