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Oil & Gas

Making sense of differences between the public and MP opinions on oil and gas

26 October 2023

Support for oil and gas is low among the UK public. But in common with several other key areas of climate policy (especially onshore wind) Conservative MPs have a different view. Compared to the public – including Conservative voters – Conservative MPs are more likely to:

  • Favour expanding domestic oil and gas production, over investing in renewables (when asked to choose between the two)
  • Have a ‘net favourable’ opinion of oil as a source of energy
  • Overestimate how favourable an opinion the public, including Conservative voters, have of oil

What explains this difference in perspective? One answer may simply be the formal position of the Conservative Party, which is to continue awarding new oil and gas licenses (whilst maintaining a commitment to net zero by 2050). Working backwards from the fact the party is committed to approving new oil and gas extraction, Conservative MPs may feel a tension in opposing oil and gas on a personal level (given that they have to represent this policy to their constituents).

And although Conservative MPs overestimate how favourable their voters are towards oil and gas, they are aligned in a different way: Climate Barometer tracker data shows Conservative voters are more likely to oppose (48%) than support (16%) the ending of drilling in the North Sea for oil and gas altogether.

The latest from the Oil & Gas timeline:

Opinion Insight 17th January 2024

Differences in support for oil and gas track political divides

A survey of 2000 people (in Novembers and December 2023) as part of the DeepDCarb project, has found mixed views on oil and gas expansion, and differences which track political divides.

30% were opposed to ‘Issue licences to permit new oil and gas expansion’, 30% neither supported or opposed new licenses (or didn’t have an opinion), and a slightly higher number (41%) were in support.

But bigger differences were apparent when the survey sample was split according to voting intention. Expansion was supported by two-thirds of both Conservative and Reform voters (and only opposed by one in ten), while Labour voters opposed expansion (41%) more often than they favoured it (34%). The majority of Green and SNP voters were opposed.

The findings mirror Climate Barometer data showing clear divides between left and right-leaning voters on oil and gas. But they also reflect patterns in wider research on the transition away from oil and gas, which indicate strong support for moving away from fossil fuels, alongside a willingness to accept the near-term need for domestic oil and gas.

  • Source: UK in a changing Europe
  • Authors: John Kenny, Andy Jordan, Lucas Geese, Chantal Sullivan-Thomsett and Irene Lorenzoni
  • Date: 17th January 2024
Policy Insight 18th December 2023

Legal challenge launched against Rosebank North Sea oil field

The campaign groups Greenpeace and Uplift launched a legal challenge against Government plans to develop the Rosebank oilfield in the North Sea.

The development is at odds with guidance from the Climate Change Committee, which has cautioned against the development of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea as inconsistent with the country’s net zero targets.

The COP28 conference ended with a call for a transition away from fossil fuels – although stopped short of calling for a phase out (or even phase down) of oil and gas. In the space between global net zero goals, and the continuing need for fossil fuels in the short term, politicians and campaigners are shaping the pace and ambition of the shift away from oil and gas. Find out what the UK public thinks about transitioning away from fossil fuels here.

Climate Barometer Tracker 30th November 2023

Tracker data: Public oppose fracking, but it continues to polarise MPs

Climate Barometer tracker data shows that there is significantly more support than opposition for ending fracking in the UK.

A closer look reveals further details: by splitting the data according to party political support, there is a more equal division among Conservative voters on whether the UK should end fracking.

But opposition to ending fracking is particularly high among Conservative MPs (55%). This stands in stark contrast with Labour MPs, 85% of whom support ending fracking. This makes fracking one of the most polarising aspects of the energy system among MPs – on many other issues (insulation, solar, offshore wind) there is much less difference between the representatives of different political parties.

 

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