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The oil debate for busy people

Posted on March 29, 2013 by

We know you don’t have all day. Let’s see if we can clear this up in under 600 words.


“The oil will run out by 1994.”
(Labour MP Tony Benn, May 1979)

“The oil will run out by 2000.”
(Labour MP Ioan Evans, February 1980)

“Oil and gas will run out by the end of the 1980s.”
(Tory MPs Timothy Eggart and Peter Rost, January 1982)

“Oil will be running out by 1989.”
(Labour MP Jeff Rooker, April 1984)

“The UK Government has spent 30 years suppressing its own report telling the Scots how rich oil would make them with independence.”
(The Independent, December 2005)

“Norway’s oil fund grew by 18% in 2012 to £450bn.”
(BBC News, March 2013)

“Poverty in Scotland at its worst in 30 years.”
(The Herald, March 2013)

“Alistair Darling is pocketing an extra £13m A DAY thanks to soaring oil prices.”
(The Sun, April 2008)

“North Sea oil could run out by 2018.”
(The Guardian, May 2008)

“North Sea oil will last another 100 years.”
(The Telegraph, June 2008)

“High oil and gas prices could lead to a Treasury tax windfall.”
(Alistair Darling on BBC News, June 2008)

“Soaring oil prices could hold back the economic recovery.”
(Alistair Darling in the Evening Standard, June 2009)

“Collapsing oil revenue will turn the whole UK into a banana republic!”
(The Telegraph, November 2009)

“Scotland faces bill of £30bn after North Sea oil runs out.”
(The Scotsman, April 2012)

“North Sea oil will last for another 50 years.”
(Daily Express, September 2012)

“Declining oil revenue will leave Scotland worse off than the UK.”
(The Telegraph, November 2012)

“The trouble with oil is that it’s a tremendously volatile diminishing asset.”
(Alistair Darling in the Paisley Daily Express, December 2012)

“Oil and gas decline to halt as investment booms.”
(Reuters, January 2013)

“North Sea oil to give George Osborne £25bn boost.”
(The Telegraph, February 2013)

“It’s not Scotland’s oil, it’s Shetland’s.”
(Tavish Scott in The Shetland Times, March 2013)

“It’s definitely Scotland’s oil.”
(Vince Cable in The Telegraph, March 2013)

“Falling oil revenues will mean savage public spending cuts or tax rises.”
(Vince Cable in the Scotsman, March 2013)

“Oil and gas will play a vital role in British energy needs for decades to come.”
(Vince Cable in the Daily Record, March 2013)

“There are probably billions of barrels still to be found in Scottish waters, which is why we’re investing billions of pounds in looking for it.”
(New York Times, March 2013)

“Oil revenue is volatile, and declining, and cheap gas from fracking will probably make it completely worthless.”
(The Scotsman, March 2013)

“North Sea oil and gas have a long and bright future.”
(UK energy minister John Hayes, March 2013)

“There’s no bright future for oil revenue.”
(Dumfries And Galloway Standard, March 2013)

“Analysts believe that Clair, along with other developments [in Scottish waters to the west of Shetland], could lead to the Atlantic overtaking the North Sea as the UK’s biggest oil-producing region within 20 years.”
(BBC News, March 2013)

“Scotland will be so rich from oil you won’t be able to handle it by yourselves!”
(The Telegraph, March 2013)


By our watch that means it’s time for Alistair Darling to come along and warn us that the oil will run out by next Tuesday afternoon, and that even if it doesn’t we’ll only waste the money on deep-fried heroin and free bus passes for pensioners so it’s best to make sure we keep giving it to George Osborne. Over to you, Alistair.


(Kudos due to Stephen Noon for digging out the MP quotes at the start.)

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53 to “The oil debate for busy people”

  1. Doug Daniel

    It’s almost as if they’re trying to artificially create lots of uncertainty, so that people don’t know what to think, and end up just picking the “better the devil you know” option in frustration.
    But that wouldn’t fit in with the idea of having a mature, informed debate over Scotland’s future, so that can’t be right… Can it?

  2. Holebender

    (Vince Cable in the Daily Record, Mach 2013)
    He must have been going at a hell of a speed!

  3. rabb

    It’s the campaign of fear & confusion. It’s a dangerous game to play as fear often leads to irrational behaviour. They are confusing their small core of No voters as well as the undecided.
    It’s entirely feasable that these people will vote Yes due to the Bitter Together crowd’s scaremongering campaign.
    I would go as far as saying it’s emotional terrorism (am I allowed to use that term Stu?).

  4. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “(Vince Cable in the Daily Record, Mach 2013)
    He must have been going at a hell of a speed!”


  5. Stevie

    “””””Doug Daniel says: It’s almost as if they’re trying to artificially create lots of uncertainty, so that people don’t know what to think, and end up just picking the “better the devil you know” option in frustration.”””””
    There’s no ‘almost’ about it — it has been UK political policy to downplay and discredit the worth and value of the oil since it was first discovered and the SNP began to make some headway.  It’s all clearly shown in the documentary about Scotland’s oil — Tony Benn, despite his promoting himself as a man of the people, turned out to be as big a liar as the rest of them; this is also shown in the documentary.  I’ll post the documentary link later.

  6. Macart

    When in doubt, follow the money.
    When companies throw hundreds of millions of pounds into development and infrastructure it kinda gives the game away as to who’s telling the truth. Very much a case of putting their money where their mouth is.

  7. GH Graham

    Here it is boiled down to just 2 sentences …
    The quantity & value of North Sea Oil & Gas is unpredictably volatile & worthless to Scotland unless its extraction is supervised by The British Government & all the tax revenues are received by The Exchequor.
    Only when Britain is administering it, is it actually worth something & only we can correctly decide to give you a small proportion of its value back.
    Any questions?

  8. ronald alexander mcdonald

    UK Govt yesterday announced that North Sea Oil has a future WELL BEYOND 2055.
    So that’s well beyond 42 years. Love the well behond quote. It’s like someone with £1m in a bank account saying he’s got well in excess of £10,000. Not being dishonest but not providing the full account.

  9. kininvie

    In that last Telegraph article, Ed Davey (an energy minister, I believe) is quoted as saying: “Smaller economies have difficulty absorbing the costs.”
    Has he ever heard of (out of a long list of possible ‘oil-burdened’ small economies):
    Brunei ($12.7b GDP), Bahrain ($12.37b), Ghana ($83.18b) ??
    Scotland’s GDP: $216 billion.
    Such an outright untruth….O where is the journalist who can spare five minutes on Google to refute it? (Answer came there none)

  10. Yesitis

    If consecutive Tory and Labour governments have been prepared to lie about the oil so many times in the past, then how can you trust a Tory/Labour government not to lie about the oil now?
    Come on – once bitten twice shy.

  11. Doug Daniel

    Stevie – you referring to Diomhair by any chance?

  12. Jimbo

    They desperately need Scotland’s resources.
    43% of England’s energy came from abroad last year.

    We’re sitting on top of millions of tonnes of coal yet England imports it to meet its energy needs. You couldn’t make this up.

  13. Horacesaysyes

    Jeeze, that’s a lot of links – far more than three I mentioned on my blog! lol

    But I agree completely with Macart’s take – if you have a choice between believing ‘impartial’ reports or those of the oil industry over this, I’m going with the folk who’ve just said they are going to spend over £300m!

  14. scottish_skier

    If I’d known you were going to post such an article today Rev, I’d have waited a few hours. Shall add the post again here.

    Trapoil outlines North Sea fracking plans

    In a statement accompanying its annual results, Trapoil said: “The amount of oil potentially held in tight reservoirs is equal to, or probably greater than, all of the oil produced to date from the UK North Sea.

    The concerns over onshore fracking (groundwater supply contamination, small seismic disturbances) are not specifically applicable to the deeper offshore environment. In fact the oil and gas involved is in many ways just the same as that already being produced; just has not migrated into higher porosity/permeability formations where it’s easy to get at.

    This is normal in hydrocarbon-rich basins, i.e. most oil/gas remains in situ or close to source rocks. Takes a special set of circumstances for it to migrate into handy little ‘pools’ in nice porous/permeable sandstones where you just need to stick a well in and it gushes out.

  15. Tearlach

    That’s a pretty crappy illustration/painting at the top of the article, obviously drawn by someone who has no idea of what an off-shore installation looks like or how the oil industry works.
    I take it you nicked it from a Unionist web site?

  16. seoc

    The Honourable Pathetics wouldn’t lie to us. Or would they?

  17. Bob

    Doug – I think Stevie was referring to “Truth, Lies, Oil and Scotland” which was an hour long investigative piece produced by BBC Scotland and presented by Hayley Miller. It is well worth a watch.
    It can viewed on (or downloaded from) Vimeo in it’s entirety and is also available in parts on Youtube…


  18. ianbeag

    I believe that Dr. Robert MacIntyre once received a letter from Ted Heath in the mid 70’s saying that it was unlikely that the value of recoverable oil in the North Sea was unlikely to exceed £800 million.  

  19. Holebender

    @s_s don’t forget limestone reservoirs (which are especially suitable for fracking). Throw in a bucket of acid, job done.

  20. Holebender

    Flaring off from the top of the derrick while hanging a crane hook from the flare boom. With a jib-less crane at the other end of the platform. Interesting.
    Mind you, it’s just as well they don’t light up that flare with the accommodation so close and all.

  21. Bob

    While I’m at it, here’s another excellent production worth sharing – I assume most people here will already know the facts but for the younger, uninitiated or newcomers to the debate, it’s a great introduction. 
    Scotland’s Conspiracy Files

  22. Arbroath1320

    I must admit there does indeed appear to be a hell of a lot of uncertainty about the future of Scotland’s oil. The only problem though is that the uncertainty does not exist amongst Scotland’s forward looking electorate, it ONLY exists in the petty mind sets of Westminster politicians and their lap dogs of the Better together crowd! 😆

  23. Slaughterhouse

    Hi folks.
    I asked this on an earlier thread and didn’t receive a reply, so I’m hoping someone will come to my aid. Would an indepedent Scotland be able to nationalise and/or renegotiate drilling licenses without risk of legal action from oil companies? Given that the current contracts have been signed by the UK Gov, any compensation would have to be paid by them, given that, come independence, they would no longer be in a position to honour those contracts? I’ve checked out South Sudan, and it seems something similar is happening there, with the government having mentioned they will be looking at renegotiating contracts that had been signed by Khartoum. Anyone able to confirm?

  24. scottish_skier


    s_s don’t forget limestone reservoirs (which are especially suitable for fracking).

    Big carbonate reservoir research group where I work; really hot topic with a lot of industry money being invested. As I believe I’ve said before, my main area is from the wellhead onwards; flow assurance mainly (specialist in gas hydrates and KHIs).

    This area is also crucial factor in making smaller, marginal fields profitable and extending the life of existing fields post water breakthrough / during pressure decline.


    All possible yes, but you’d need to be really careful about just trying to dive in an ‘grab’ stuff where there are existing contracts. Could put off investors.

    What you can do perfectly reasonably though is take a sizeable or controlling share in all new developments or existing ones when they go on the open market (Norwegian government do this through Statoil which is 60% state owned).

    That means you need to inject some cash but then you get a share of the profits too. In addition, crucially, you have much more control over your own resources/supply from them.

  25. Arbroath1320

    Sorry for going off topic, but I’ve just written to Electoral Commission to complain about the use of the names Scottish Labour party, Scottish Liberal Democrat party and Scottish Conservative party. Having checked the Electoral Commission website I’ve found none of these parties are registered so in my humblest of humble opinions none of these names can be used. I think it is only fair and just that the political parties in Scotland use their correct names and not ones that lead to confusion amongst the electorate.
    Just doing my wee bit for the upcoming fight you understand! 😆

  26. Macart

    My father was 32 years with BP and back in 79-80 I spent a year with them myself before finding myself on Maggie’s 4mil club. We both still keep an eye on the industry. I rarely if ever believe the dailys when it comes to the oil industry. Just check out govt projections check with a few company sites and hey presto picture formed. The fact that Dana, Shell, BP, Statoil and a few others have started to spend some serious cash is a bit of a heads up. 

  27. Slaughterhouse

    Cheers, scottish_skier 🙂

  28. BillyBigbaws

    Slaughterhouse said : “Would an indepedent Scotland be able to nationalise and/or renegotiate drilling licenses without risk of legal action from oil companies?”

    Given the historical precedents, I’d be more worried about hostile action from MI6 and the CIA. 🙂

    They throw a fit if anybody tries to nationalise anything anywhere, especially when it comes to oil rights.

    Energy resources must NOT be allowed to benefit the people of the country they belong to – it is a natural law that they are always the rightful property of multinational British and American corporations… unless the Russians or Chinese get there first.

    Not really sure why Norway’s been left alone so long by the global wrecking crew.

    Honestly, though, I don’t know. It would certainly be something worth looking into, and scottish_skier makes a much more sensible point than me, namely that it would be a good idea for the government to set about getting a controlling share in any new wells post-independence.

  29. Les Wilson

    Money Week magazine has in today’s edition a 3 page spread on North Sea Oil, they now are now quoting that output could again grow to 2mbd, something that Alex Salmond already said and was shot down by the Unionist Conspiracy.
    However, the name, Scotland, is nowhere to be seen in their article.
    So it is pretty clear just who we should trust, and it is not the Unionists.
    Note also that old foggy V.Gable apparently now agrees “IT IS SCOTLANDS OIL” something again long spoken about by A.Salmond.
    The facts are now out in the open, and the YES campaign should capitalize big time on these statements. They the undeniable truth of how Scotland wealthy would be, is now a fact and reiterates a point in the McCrone report that Scotland will be a lender to the UK. There is nil chance of them being difficult with us using Sterling, so that one can also be put in the dead file.
    Pull together folks, onwards and upwards!

  30. Marcia

    It would be good to see posters up and down the country :
    ‘It IS Scotland’s Oil.
      Copyright  Vince Cable March 2013 

  31. Juteman

    It would be funny if it wasn’t tragic.
    Everytime the NO’s release a doom ‘n gloom statement, the real world intervenes and shoots down their lies. 🙂

  32. Dunphail

    It appears that Conlibs are scrapping the Oil and Gas Division of the HSE formed in response to recommendations in Cullen’s report into the Piper Alpha disaster. Most of the inspectors are based in Aberdeen no doubt whats left will be relocated south of the border

  33. Chic McGregor

    Slightly OT
    But any of you guys seen a recent FOI regarding a feasibility/planning report carried out in 2006 for gas extraction in the Airth area?  Claims that they would eventually use fracking have been denied, but a lot of the FOI has been redacted.  OK most of that from surrounding context would appear to be commercially sensitive info (e.g. production yields expected etc.) but some of the redacted stuff does seem to also be in bits where methods are the context.
    Anyway you can see it here.

  34. Dcanmore

    This from the NY times article in Stu’s links …
    Ms. Wexelstein, the analyst at Wood Mackenzie*, says the industry is likely to invest $70 billion in Britain from 2012 to 2016 — the most, even accounting for inflation, since the 1970s.
    “We are expecting the decline in liquids production to halt [in the North Sea] and gas production to rise, “ Ms. Wexelstein says.
    Rather than abandon Britain, the industry appears to be shifting into a new phase. The major producers are shedding smaller depleted fields and moving north, though the central North Sea off Scotland will likely remain the key producer for a longtime.
    *from their website … Wood Mackenzie is the most comprehensive source of knowledge about the world’s energy and metals industries.

  35. Alex Grant

    The facts about oil are finally beginning to get out and we now for the first time in 40 years really stand a chance of getting the truth to the voters. Thank god for the web and and people like the Rev!  I’d like to see what the research says about how many Scots have the message yet? I’m sure most people don’t know but we have 18 months to get it out there!!!!!

  36. muttley79

    Does anyone think it would be a good idea for the Yes campaign to send a copy of the McCrone report to every household in Scotland?  I think many people in Scotland still do not know about it due to the media and their ‘style’ of reporting.

    One of the main choices in the referendum is whether we are going to vote to take control over our natural resources to build a better society in Scotland.  Vote Yes for control over our natural resources, vote No for continued economic exploitation (mostly at the hands of fucking Tories and their Red Tory buddies), while at the same time being labelled “subsidy junkies”! 

  37. Chic McGregor

    As Alex Salmond succinctly put it ‘Follow the money.’

  38. Inbhir Anainn

    Although probably badly in need of an overall update this website nevertheless gives an informative insight.


  39. Chic McGregor

    I think this recent Newsnet Scotland article deserves an honourable mention.
    “Then, we have the massive Scottish North Atlantic sector oil and natural gas fields, off Scotland`s west coast, which is predicted to contain two or three times the amount of oil and natural gas as the Scottish North Sea sector.  The Scottish ‘Atlantic Frontier’ for oil and natural gas goes way out beyond Rockall.  London has earmarked over 2500 licensing blocks for sale in the Scottish North Atlantic sector. ”

  40. Bill C

    @mutley79 -“Does anyone think it would be a good idea for the Yes campaign to send a copy of the McCrone report to every household in Scotland?  I think many people in Scotland still do not know about it due to the media and their ‘style’ of reporting.”
    I think this is an excellent idea but with an update on the current situation from an independent source e.g. Oil and Gas UK, Professor Alex Kemp (University of Aberdeen).  I would say that the vast majority of the people of Scotland have never heard of the McCrone Report. If they had and they knew it has been kept Top Secret by the UK Government for 30 years, we would have been independent by now.

  41. mato21

    Truth,lies,and oil Parts 1-6  Interesting insight


  42. Juteman

    I wonder how long it will be before the NO’s change tactics and tell the truth?
    “OK, we admit Scotland would be better off independent, but please stay. Pretty pretty please stay. Us Unionists MP’s and MSP’s have egos and familys to feed. And multiple properties in London to finance. Please, pretty please don’t force us to live in the real world.”

  43. Cyborg-nat

    Aye Juteman , itherwise they may come tae ken whit ” Cauld winter wiz howlin o’er land an sea” really means.

  44. Marian

    Would you allow a Westminster establishment which has racked up more than £1.4 Trillion of debt to “manage” your precious oil resources ?
    The UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey is reported to have said: “Only the UK can deliver what is required over a sustained period if you are going to get the most out of the oil and gas industry. The UK is a large economy – that is why we can provide the support. Smaller economies have difficulty absorbing the costs. The size of the UK economy can really create the framework and certainty.” and “A bigger country is better at absorbing shocks — it’s simple logic. A modest change has a significant impact on GDP — in a country 10 times smaller, the shock would be proportionally bigger. We need to remember that when we’re debating this sensitive issue.”
    So putting all your eggs in one basket by de-industrialising and basing your economy entirely on the quicksands of financial services is all right then? I think not.
    According to the Westminster Lab/Tory/Lib party argument then no natural resources would belong to any single country but have to be given over to the EU or some world government instead!
    What other country in the world votes for an arrangement where they hand over all the revenues from a natural resource within their territorial waters that will probably last for another 100 years, to another government that misspends at will and financially punishes the poorest and weakest in the donor country, whilst it gives the donor country only 9% of these revenues back?

  45. Holebender

    The problem with unionists’ thinking is that they see oil & gas as a revenue stream for the here and now. Of course if you’re relying on oil & gas to provide income for your day-to-day expenses any fluctuations in price can be traumatic, a shock to the system.
    If, on the other hand, you regard oil & gas as the icing on the cake and you treat the income as a long term investment you can ride out short term fluctuations far more comfortably. Thinking this way, oil & gas is far more of a burden to a large economy which spends the revenue as fast as it comes in than it is for a smaller economy which puts the revenue aside in a wealth fund for future generations.

  46. Chic McGregor

    Re Fracking at Airth, NNS have an article regarding renewed fears.  I’ve posted the FOI link there.

  47. bawheid bragg

    Another thought provoking article, but – ye left  Denis ‘we lied about the oil’ Healey out of your list!

  48. Faltdubh

    Top work, and great article!
    I hope Yes put this on their page.

  49. Lindsey Smith

    We are OFT (oil field trash), our living comes from working in O&G sector. Local North East folk have acquired expertise in this extremely dangerous industry, we sell our skills worldwide, and yet, WM has the gall to tell us that WE won’t be able to manage this resource and the industry exploiting it, so we should let them continue to exploit us!

    I learned to ignore a well-connected Arab in his Lexus Landcruiser, one cm off my bumper, flashing his headlights, trying to force me to make way for him, SO a well-connected Old Etonian politician, in my face, flashing his English majority trying to make me give up my sovereignty is not going to cut it.

  50. Caadfael

    A couple of wee off-topics if I may, can we please keep rack of what the bookies, particularly in this crucial week when C A Moron and entourage are in Aberdeen as it will have great bearing and will help folk to see where the money is going.
    The following would be grand to see …
    Ensure all alternative exits are blocked
    No laundry baskets available
    FM to knock door and march in accompanied by a full press corps, Russia Today, Al Jazeera etc


    “Then they fight you and you win!” Ghandi.

  51. Craig

    The very thought that they even think to allow Fracking in the Central belt of Scotland scares the hell out of me. We have been mining underneath our cities and towns for over 300 years. Can you imagine the devastation fracking could cause, building and roads collapsing underneath you as you walk. Perhaps a great tory idea to get rid of us Scots, If you can’t breed them out, undermine them (seems they want to undermine our self esteem, and our towns). Oil will probably last for another century and that is great so long as we use it to build our infrastructure and invest in our inventors and entrepreneurs, nothing lasts forever, but as a small country we will be able to adapt and change in ways that the UK never could or want to.

  52. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    A reader posted this in a totally irrelevant thread, but it seemed worth retrieving it and sticking it in here.


    O/T Had some spare time and thought I would make a list of the North Sea’s Oil and Gas projects..

    “Projects By Region: Europe”

    “Stay up to date with the project updates from Europe (Scotland)

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