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Government faces major backlash over decision to grant new oil drilling rights: 'Grossly irresponsible'

"Instead of cracking down on oil and gas giants like Shell, they're greenlighting a new drilling frenzy."

"Instead of cracking down on oil and gas giants like Shell, they're greenlighting a new drilling frenzy."

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New U.K. oil drilling licenses are sparking backlash from environmentalists, according to the Guardian.

What's happening?

The U.K. government just granted major oil companies the rights to drill for dirty fuel in 24 new areas across the North Sea. The goal? Extending the life of the aging oil and gas basin to "provide benefits" to the economy, according to the British government.

Seventeen oil companies, including Shell and BP, received licenses to drill in the Central North Sea, Northern North Sea, and West of Shetland areas. And drilling could start before 2030, according to the North Sea Transition Authority.

Why are drilling licenses concerning? 

The U.K. signed a pledge to phase out polluting fuels at the UN COP28 climate talks in December. But now they're encouraging more drilling, sacrificing climate leadership for what environmentalists call "a pipe dream."

Greenpeace UK points out that the government knows the dirty fuel industry is driving the climate crisis. "But instead of cracking down on oil and gas giants like Shell, they're greenlighting a new drilling frenzy," campaigner Philip Evans told the Guardian.

These licenses likely won't do much to secure Britain's energy supplies or lower bills. Most of the oil gets exported to refineries in Europe. Meanwhile, climate experts have made it clear: Any action that releases dirty pollution has to stop to curb rising global temperatures

Bob Ward from the Grantham Research Institute calls the move "grossly irresponsible," saying it undermines the U.K.'s reputation and investor confidence in clean energy.

"This suggests that the U.K. government did not act in good faith" on its COP28 commitments, he said.

What can I do about drilling licenses?

So, what can concerned citizens do? Environmentalists recommend:

1. Contacting your representative to voice your opposition to new oil drilling. Demand support for clean energy instead. The more constituents speak up, the harder it is to ignore. 

2. Voting with your wallet. Choose banks and investment funds that don't finance dirty fuel. Support companies leading in renewables and efficiency.

3. Cutting your own carbon impact. Walk, bike, or take transit when you can. Gradually replace gas appliances with electric ones. Even small changes add up.

4. Staying engaged and spreading the word. Follow environmental groups to track policy developments. Share articles on the need for a faster clean energy transition. Together, we can build public pressure for climate action.

With enough collective effort, experts say, we can steer the U.K. down a more sustainable path. The future is worth fighting for.

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