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Billionaire slams government leader over new drilling policies: 'If I see this country steering itself over a cliff ...'

"I must invest where I know I have proper leadership, not leadership which is on a clickbait cycle."

Andrew Forrest is threatening to pull support

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Australian billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest denounced United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's plan to "max out" North Sea oil and gas reserves, saying he would withdraw his investments if he sees the "country steering itself over a cliff backing fossil fuel," reported The Guardian, also quoting an interview from Bloomberg News.

Forrest, the founder of mining company Fortescue Metals Group, has pivoted to renewables, as Fortescue Future Industries explores clean energy sources such as hydrogen.

Prime Minister Sunak said on July 31 that the UK would grant more than 100 new drilling licenses, despite its pledge to reach net zero carbon pollution by 2050, which would include reducing carbon pollution 68% from 1990 levels by 2030.

Prime Minister Sunak also said that obtaining oil and gas from the North Sea would be more economically viable than importing it and "good for our energy security." He noted that the country will continue to rely on dirty energy and expects to use oil and gas for 25% of its needs in 2050.

"I'm a major investor here," Forrest said to Bloomberg. "If I see this country steering itself over a cliff backing fossil fuel, I'm going to start pulling out. I will push my investments over to North America … I must invest where I know I have proper leadership, not leadership which is on a clickbait cycle."

In December, Forrest — whose net worth according to Forbes was $19 billion as of late August — bought the Australian wind energy giant CWP Renewables for more than $2.7 billion, Reuters reported.

Norway and the United States are the largest exporters of oil to the UK, which gets about 50% of its gas from the North Sea and about 33% from Norway.

Still, Sunak said the North Sea permits would be good for the climate "because the alternative is shipping energy here from halfway around the world with three or four times the carbon emissions," according to The Guardian.

"The prime minister also indicated he would approve drilling at the UK's largest untapped reserves in the Rosebank field, which hold 500 million barrels of oil," The Guardian reported.

Mike Childs, the head of science, policy, and research for Friends of the Earth, told The Guardian, "These fossil fuels will be sold on international markets and not reserved for U.K. use."

"The U.K. is in the bottom half of the global table in terms of how clean its oil and production is," Tessa Khan, founder and executive director of Uplift, said. "The government often points to the most carbon-intensive form of imports, but the truth is that the main source of our gas imports is by pipeline and is much cleaner than U.K.-produced gas."

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