Compare Gas Prices: Dolphins and the Offshore Industry

by : Mark Lauterwein

Compare Gas Prices: Dolphins and the Offshore Industry

The discovery of oil and gas deposits in the North Sea was justly celebrated at the time. People's lives were transformed as cheap energy made cold rooms in winter a memory for millions. Of course there were doubts: the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988 saw nearly 167 rig-workers killed in a murderous explosion. The Cullen Report indicated that safety protocols on the rig were not stringent enough and things have tightened up since then.

The biggest fears surrounding the industry now have less to do with day-to-day safety concerns than with the uncertainty as to what consequences Britain's dwindling supplies will bring. In the longer term Russia does not look like a reliable partner. Nuclear power is the favoured option, but it will take decades for the new generation of clean reactors to be built. Delays will be caused in any event through massive environmental protest (who wants to live next to a nuclear power station?). So, in the meantime, there is pressure from the Treasury to ensure that the figurative barrel of our North Sea resources is well and truly scraped. However, recent studies of dolphin pods in the Moray Firth illustrate that there is always another kind of price to pay for the sake of maintaining Britain's balance of payments deficit.

This particular group of bottlenose dolphins living off the east coast of Scotland, only an hour's drive from Edinburgh, has become a well loved tourist attraction. Wildlife thrives here, workers on the Forth Bridge have spotted a group of killer whales swimming below them. Yet the number of dolphins has fallen in recent years and scientists have concluded that this is directly related to the expansion of the offshore industry nearby. Concessions have been made to those concerned about the future of the pod and Alistair Darling has prohibited drilling in the direct vicinity of the Firth. So this story has a happy end, at least for the time being.

Those consumers who compare gas prices at the present time with those of yesteryear will be fully aware that the increasing efforts being made to locate new North Sea deposits (especially near the coasts, where the environmental cost can be so high if something goes wrong) are being paid for by the end user. However, due to the freeing up of the market at least the modern day gas customer has the consolation of being able to compare gas prices with other providers to locate the best deal. Since most electricity in this country is generated by gas powered power-stations, electricity bills are also connected to the state of the offshore industry. However, market freedom prevails here too and the consumer is well advised to shop around.