Britain, Netherlands approve new North Sea gas projects

BERLIN (AP) — British regulators gave final approval Wednesday to develop a new North Sea gas field, while the Dutch government announced that it has issued permits for a joint gas exploration project with Germany.

European nations are scrambling to tap new sources of natural gas that will help them wean themselves off supplies from Russia, but environmentalists have criticized the decision to invest in fossil fuels rather than renewable energy that would do less harm to the planet.

Britain’s business and energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said UK regulators approved the Jackdaw gas field being developed by Shell.

“We’re turbocharging renewables and nuclear, but we are also realistic about our energy needs now,” Kwarteng wrote on Twitter. “Let’s source more of the gas we need from British waters to protect energy security.”

The environmental group Greenpeace responded by accusing the government of “desperate and destructive” action.

“You’re not turbocharging renewables, you’re turbocharging the climate crisis,” it said.

Separately, the Netherlands issued permits for a new gas field off its North Sea coast on the border with Germany. The Dutch government said permission from German authorities to drill for gas in the region was still pending.

“A year ago, the German state of Lower Saxony decided not to issue permits,” the Dutch government said. “They are now making a different decision because of the war in Ukraine.”

German authorities couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. If the joint project is approved, the first gas could be produced by the end of 2024, the Dutch government said.

Russian state energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday that it was halting the flow of gas to Dutch trader GasTerra, along with several other European customers. Moscow is seeking ways to retaliate against sanctions imposed by European nations over its attack on Ukraine.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that the Ukraine war risked diverting attention away from the need to combat climate change.

Guterres has repeatedly called for countries to stop drilling for new gas, oil and coal projects, warning that they are environmentally harmful and economically unviable.

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