Why Are We Subsidising New Fossil Fuels?

The UK government likes to claim (https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-12-10/90854):

"The UK does not give any subsidies to fossil fuels" (17 December 2021)

However, in its Energy Profits Levy Factsheet - 26 May 2022 the UK government is promising

"an immediate incentive for the oil and gas sector to invest in UK extraction"

so that

"businesses will overall get a 91p tax saving for every £1 they invest"

In contrast on 18 May 2021 Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, stated

"If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now - from this year"

The UK government is subsidising activities that will lead to future deaths on a massive scale - see below. Imagine what could be achieved if those subsidies were instead directed towards de-carbonising homes and businesses.


In June 2022 consent was granted to develop the Jackdaw field in the North Sea:


According to Shell (https://www.shell.com/media/news-and-media-releases/2022/shell-invests-in-the-jackdaw-gas-field-in-the-uk-north-sea.html):

"Peak production from the field is estimated at 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day"

1 barrel of oil is 159 litres. 40,000 barrels oil/day = 6,360,000 litres/day.

Approximate 2.5kgCO₂ is emitted per litre of oil burned. Jackdaw will lead to additional emissions of 15,900,000 kgCO₂/day; ie 15,900 tCO₂/day; ie 5.8million tCO₂/year.

Using the non-headline, more conservative figure from the Nature paper The Mortality Cost of Carbon (as explained on How Many Children Can One Oil Depot Kill?), based on 2.4°C warming by 2100, adding 9,318 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020 causes one excess death globally in expectation between 2020-2100.

Each year of peak production from the Jackdaw field will cause an additional 620 future deaths by 2100.


  • This number counts just deaths expected to be caused by heat-stress. It does not include any of the other consequences of climate change eg crop failure, starvation, floods, droughts, etc.
  • The error bars on the The Mortality Cost of Carbon page are wide. The number above is based on a central estimate.
  • The quote from Shell mentions "barrels of oil equivalent". The Jackdaw field will extract gas and oil, but the carbon emissions will presumably also be equivalent.

Jackdaw in Perspective

How big is Jackdaw compared to current UK oil and gas extraction?

BP's Statistical Review of World Energy 2021 reports that:

  • UK oil production in 2020: 1,029 thousand barrels per day (p18)
  • UK gas production in 2020: 39.5 billion m³ per day (p36)

Deaths from UK Oil Production

1,029,000 barrels of oil per day is 163,600,000 litres per day. If it's all burnt (some might be made into plastics, tarmac, etc) that leads to emissions of 409,000,000 kgCO₂/day ie 409,000 tCO₂/day ie 149million tCO₂/year. For each year of current UK oil production the CO₂ emissions are causing an additional 16,000 future deaths by 2100.

Deaths from UK Gas Production

The UK's HMRC says "1m³ methane weighs 0.76kg". This agrees with BP's Approximate conversion factors, which says "1 billion cubic metres NG = 0.735 million tonnes LNG".

Therefore 39.5 billion m³ gas per year means 30 billion kg / year ie 30 million ton/year. Using atomic weights tells me that burning 1kg of CH4 produces 12 / 16 x (12 + 16 + 16) / 12 = 2.75kg CO₂. Burning that gas leads to emissions of 82.5 million tCO₂/year. For each year of current UK gas production the CO₂ emissions are causing an additional 8,900 future deaths by 2100.

Each year UK fossil fuel production will cause an additional 25,000 future deaths by 2100.

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