Comment: Certainty and stability are key to oil and gas

After their visit to Aberdeen yesterday, it must be hoped that the three UK government ministers got the message that what the oil industry needs most of all is long-term certainty and stability.

Terry Murden. Picture: TSPL
Terry Murden. Picture: TSPL

Business Secretary Vince Cable, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore were told that the region has plenty of life left in it, but needs government support to sustain and develop it.

As a former Shell economist, Cable should need no reminding of the industry’s priorities, with a stable tax regime at its heart and an understanding of the need to provide the skills and supporting infrastructure.

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In fairness, he made several references yesterday to the need for stability, not least in the tax regime. It should act as a gentle reminder to the Chancellor of the folly of imposing rash levies that take the industry by surprise and seem designed only to see it as a cash cow to make up shortfalls in the public finances.

To a degree, the oil and gas industry has been taken for granted. Yesterday’s mutual confirmation that it will continue to play a key role at the centre of Britain’s energy policy should help encourage investment and reassure those who fear too much reliability on alternative sources.

Fruitful quarter gives hope to BlackBerry

MOBILE device company BlackBerry, the one-time must-have brand, has suffered hugely from losing its market-leading position as the key e-mail phone to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s android software.

Better-than-expected results yesterday show that predictions of its death have been exaggerated. A million Z10s, the Canadian firm’s make-or-break new model, were shipped in the quarter, though subscriptions fell, which clouded the turnaround plan.

However, despite the healthy numbers of devices shifted, the response to the Z10, remains mixed. The recent launch in the US was said to be muted.

The figures were helped by buoyant sales of older models, cutting costs and improving the supply chain.

But the unexpected profit figure helped the company’s shares and give it a chance of keeping in touch with its rivals.

Clarity on targets will help renewables grow

back to energy and the issue of certainty. The renewables sector may be controversial but it’s difficult to argue with the latest numbers.

They show a doubling of investment to a record level and that more than a third of Scotland’s energy needs are now provided by a mixture of mainly wind and hydro technology, enough to power every home in the country. But while growth is on schedule to hit the Scottish Government’s 2020 target of 100 per cent energy from green sources, there remains some concern from within the industry that ministers in London are not doing enough to support it.

At the recent Scottish Renewables dinner, Ignacio Martin, chairman of Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa, raised his concerns about the lack of clarity on such issues as the 2030 decarbonisation target which Holyrood has agreed but Westminster has not.

Energy industries, as above, like to know what rules they are playing to well in advance in order to make long-term investment decisions.

Twitter: @TerryMurden1