How do you decarbonise an oil field of 800 million barrels?

It’s early doors but already there’s stiff competition for this month’s Bad Climate Media Awards. With COP26 fast approaching the entrants are coming in thick and fast (mostly thick). First up we have Holyrood Magazine for some magnificent examples of greenwashing and gaslighting.

Look how the buzzwords are out out to play, there’s “net-zero” and “energy transition” and of course “we all have a role to play to achieve this” (sad face/happy face). And who’s going to fix it? “In the run up to COP26, join Holyrood and and BP as we discuss the next steps…” Haud me back!

Not be undone BBC Scotland’s The Nine dedicated a whole programme to, well it wasn’t quite clear. Watch it here.

The programme started out by telling us that we needed to figure out “How to meet Scotland’s climate obligations, while also keeping the lights on.”

The programme was fronted by James Cook and Rebecca Curran and set out to Shetland to explore the thorny question.

First up we had someone called Laurie Goodlad who was described as a ‘campaigner’. We weren’t told what she campaigns about? Is it mice? Aubergine? What?!

Was SHE in favour of Cambo? Yes she very much was because we still need oil for make-up and toothpaste and everything. The idea that there are NO alternatives for any oil-derived products is just a form of delirium.

Next up came Steven Coutts – who allegedly is the Leader of Shetland Council – was HE in favour  of Cambo? Yes he was but only for the dumbfounding reason that he was in favour of ‘Just Transition’ (all these words and phrases are just like confetti now, they are 100% meaningless). He put the entirely erroneous argument that stopping North Sea Oil would require us to increase exports. This is simply not true as we laid out here Some Key Myths about the Cambo Oil Field. Why was your interviewer James Cook so ill-informed as not to challenge this?

So far so bad. No context of the global situation. No framing by the IPCC Code Red report. No specialists or scientists. It got worse.

Next up Alex Salmond leader of Alba.

Did HE think Cambo go ahead?’ Yes the former oil economist did:

“Yes they should you should attach to the licence condition a zero carbon imposition – and you could do that by telling them to invest in renewables or by decarbonising the oil field…”
I mean, re-read that statement. What’s a zero carbon imposition? How do you decarbonise an oil field 800 million barrels of oil?
How was it possible to conduct that interview and not challenge that statement?
How is that possible on the BBC Scotland’s flagship news programme – that we campaigned for for decades – in the autumn of COP26 – to have this level of broadcast journalism?


So, two highly competitive entries for our Bad Climate Media Awards. But there’s a twist to the awards this month as we’ll be putting the entrants to the public vote by the end of the month. Send your entries here.  Extra points for meaningless framing, bizarre vox-pops, platforming people with no experience or coherent views and journalists quietly nodding away as people talk gibberish in the face of cataclysmic climate breakdown.

The idea of “keeping the lights on” went unchallenged, like everything else. What does it mean to “keep the lights on”? I think its code for business a usual/nothing must change/ I refuse to change? I can’t imagine anything. I mean the obvious question is why don’t we switch the fucking lights off?*

* By which I mean why is NO-ONE ever talking about a serious energy-descent plan for Scotland (and everywhere else?) The framing which 98% of our media starts from is that the real threat comes from not the existential global crisis as mapped out with terrifying precision by our scientific community, no, the real threat comes from anyone suggesting we don’t, in this case nod through a new oil field containing 800 million barrels of oil.


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  1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Yes, that edition of ‘The Nine’ sounded more like an advert by one of the oil and gas companies. BBC Scotland still gives air time on its programmes for ‘climate change denial’ despite the wider BBC’s recommendation against it.

    I studied Higher Grade chemistry in 1965 and we were told that oil and gas had other uses in addition to burning, such as for the production of plastics (widely seen as an unquestioned ‘good thing’ in these days, the production of pharmaceuticals, important industrial materials such as ammonia and benzene, etc. While such things have indeed been manufactured, the bulk of the oil and gas has been BURNED. It was with a sense of deja vu that I heard the arguments about the alternative uses being used as a justification for the development of Cambo) and any other exploitable fields which are discovered.

    So, The Nine gets my vote.

  2. Rev David Coleman says:

    Thanks for this excellent and useful coverage

  3. Colin Robinson says:

    Maybe advertisers (commercial and political) who cultivate then exploit consumer anxiety in order to increase their turnover should also be eligible for your Bad Climate Media Awards. I saw a billboard in Netherton yesterday, on which a media agency assured me that the best way I could help save the planet (avoid universal damnation) would be to hire-purchase a certain make and model of car (buy indulgences).

  4. Susan Smith says:

    What about a joint award for the relentless media , Opportunity North East (ONE) and company (ETZ Ltd) PR releases hyping up Aberdeen and the North East’s very own Energy Transition Zone, when the location changes with the proposed activities, without that being made clear ( eg carbon capture and storage in St Fittick’s Park . Doonies farm and/or East Tullos or Altens industrial estate ? St Fergus, surely??) , when the overoptimistic job forecasts are not borne out by any definite proposals or by evidence from previous experience of renewable jobs, let alone offshore construction ones. All hiding the destruction of 11,000 people in one of the 10% most deprived area’s green space.

    1. Thanks Susan – tell us more

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