TDEG Meeting – “The Oil Machine” 26 April 2023

TDEG’s whole group meeting on 26 April presented the BBC Scotland documentary “The Oil Machine”, followed by a discussion about its implications and possible future actions for both our group and individuals.

Jill Turner (a local financial adviser, with a focus on sustainable investments) introduced the film, stating it was released in 2022 and was screened during the Sheffield Doc Fest in 2022. It is still available to watch on the BBC iplayer. The film has been shown amongst many groups, playhouses and cinemas.

The film featured many different experts and activists – economists from international agencies and financial institutions; government scientists; experts from the oil industry; and most affectingly, young activists concerned about their futures.

The documentary explained the history of the oil industry in the UK, specifically the North Sea. It described how over a relatively short period, our whole economy had become entangled in the revenues produced by oil and gas, through capital investments, pensions and other financial systems. As we move towards a fossil fuel free future, it also explained how this must change.

Several economists expressed their concern that oil and gas should now be regarded as `declining assets`, and that the UK’s continuing heavy investment and reliance on these industries was highly risky and unstable. A representative from the insurance company Aviva, and internationally acclaimed economist, Ann Pettifor, both spoke convincingly about these concerns.

Other surprising facts from the documentary included –

– Sir David King (ex Chief Scientist for the UK Government) forecast that by 2050, if we continue as we are, there might be 100 – 300 million “climate refugees” needing to be re-homed across the globe. Rising sea levels would hit those least responsible for global warming and least able to cope with the impacts.

– The UK oil and gas industry is very heavily subsidised by the government. For example, 50% of decommissioning costs are covered by the tax payer. Why does this continue?

– Around two-thirds of all oil produced in the UK goes to China and the United States. It is not needed for our own energy security.

– The price of renewables has dropped by 80%. Why is the UK locking itself into an oil dependant economy for the next 30 years?

The conclusion of the film seemed to be that the UK government is pursuing oil and gas not because they are better sources of energy, but because our economy is so entangled in the sector. And this needs addressing quickly.

If you missed this film, it can still be seen on BBC iplayer, or you can follow the web site here –  .

Discussion and further information

Following the film, we had a brief discussion which focused on how we might influence banks and financial institutions to disinvest from the oil and gas sector.

Jill reminded us that though we might feel compelled to sell our own investments or involvement in certain pension funds, any action could incur tax penalties and financial losses. If you are contributing to a local government pension scheme, superannuation or any other pension scheme, you could lose valuable index-linked benefits and employer contributions. It is important to consult a good financial adviser before making any such decisions.

However – we can all make a difference by looking carefully at our pensions, investments and ISAs to see if they are investing our money in industries we might prefer not to support. We can then lobby our investment and pension providers to encourage them to divest from the oil and gas sector. 

We can also make careful and informed decisions about which institutions we bank with and try to ensure our money is used to support sustainability, rather than damaging the environment.

There is further information on ethical banking and investments in one of our existing TDEG web pages – Doing Good With your Money.

This BBC report also provides some excellent information and further links.

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