EU Chief Calls for North Sea Oil Drilling Ban


    The European Union’s energy commissioner has called for a temporary ban on new oil drilling in the North Sea.

    Gunther Oettinger said any responsible government would “freeze new permits” following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

    He suggested a “de facto moratorium” until the causes of the accident are known and safety procedures reviewed.

    His comments came as new figures showed drilling activity in the North Sea had risen sharply in the past three months.

    But SNP MEP Alyn Smith said a ban would be “wholly disproportionate and unhelpful”.

    The UK oil and gas industry said recently it did not expect a backlash against deep water drilling in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster in April, when huge quantities of oil began leaking from a blown-out well.

    But in calling for a temporary ban on drilling, Mr Oettinger said governments needed to make sure the oil industry took “all possible measures” to further improve safety and enhance disaster prevention levels.

    He added: “While specific measures linked to technologies used may meaningfully come only after the causes of the current accident have been fully investigated, immediate and precautionary steps towards reinforcing the level of prevention and preparedness can and must be taken already now.”

    Mr Oettinger is due to meet major oil companies in Europe on 14 July. The European Commission has also called a meeting with national regulatory and supervisory authorities on the same day.

    This week a study by financial consultants Deloitte found drilling for 28 exploration and appraisal wells began between April and June, compared to just 12 wells during the first three months of the year.

    Deloitte said the figures suggested some confidence was returning to the market.


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