TORY plans for a “North Sea drilling frenzy” to solve the energy crisis will have no impact on bills and hand billions of pounds to oil companies, environmental campaigners say.

Reports have suggested that Liz Truss is considering handing out as many as 130 new licences to explore new fields as one of her first acts if she becomes prime minister.

Greenpeace warned new oil and gas could take 25 years to pump out and “have no real impact on energy bills”, while exacerbating climate change.

The charity called on the UK Government to instead bring in an energy bill freeze and offer extra financial support to vulnerable households.

The SNP also said more urgent help was needed for households and that Scotland's resources have "bank-rolled UK finances for decades" while being "frittered away" by successive Westminster governments. 

The Scottish Greens also criticised the proposals, saying the "warm words" of COP26 have "turned to dust".

READ MORE: Activists vow to fight permit bid for Rosebank oil field off the coast of Shetland

Truss would invite applications for drilling licences to explore new fields in the North Sea if she becomes prime minister, as well as push oil and gas firms to invest in their existing sites to maximise production, according to The Times.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who is likely to be appointed chancellor if Truss enters Downing Street, and Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, have reportedly been holding talks with oil and gas giants to secure energy supplies amid fears of shortages this winter.

However the Truss camp has said the meetings were held in their ministerial capacities, were set up by civil servants, and not linked with her campaign.

The National: Liz Truss during a hustings event in Norfolk Liz Truss during a hustings event in Norfolk

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: “Unleashing a North Sea drilling frenzy isn’t a plan to help bill payers but a gift to the fossil fuel giants already making billions from this crisis.

“New oil and gas could take a quarter of a century to pump out, will be eventually sold at global prices, and have no real impact on energy bills, yet still fuel the climate crisis.

“Our gas dependence is what got us into this mess and doubling down on it won’t get us out of it. New renewables are nine times cheaper than gas. Turbo-charging renewables and fixing our energy-wasting homes by investing in insulation is the quickest way to reduce our gas dependence and bring energy bills under control.”

“If Liz Truss really wants to help cash-strapped households, she should bring in an energy bill freeze alongside extra financial support for the poorest households, partly funded by properly taxing the astronomical profits of oil and gas companies.”

If elected as Tory party leader, Truss is also expected to give the go-ahead to a controversial development of the Rosebank, west of Shetland, which is the largest undeveloped oil and gas field in the UK.

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Freya Aitchison, oil and gas campaigner with  Friends of the Earth Scotland, called for the UK Government to deliver a "just and rapid" transition to renewable energy.

She said: “Encouraging companies to search for more fossil fuels or opening up huge new fields like Rosebank would be wildly irresponsible from the UK Government, pouring fuel on the climate fire that is engulfing the world. 

“Developing such projects might make sense to greedy oil firms who see an opportunity to exploit high fossil fuel prices but the cost to both our climate and households struggling to pay the bills is far too great.

“With the soaring cost of living and energy price cap set to rise again, we simply cannot afford to invest more money in oil and gas extraction that will keep us locked into this broken system for decades to come."

A spokesperson for the SNP said: “Issuing new oil and gas licences does nothing to ease the urgent pressure households across the UK face. They need help right now, and Liz Truss needs to understand the scale of the crisis she is set to inherit.

“Scotland’s resources have already bank-rolled UK finances for decades while successive Westminster governments frittered away our oil and gas revenues instead of ensuring wealth is retained in a savings fund like Norway’s.

"Independence will allow us to decide how best to manage our own resources while also ensuring a just transition to net zero."

READ MORE: Renewables are a boon to Scotland's energy sector and economy

Mark Ruskell, environment spokesperson, for the Scottish Greens said: “The science is clear. The climate crisis is the greatest crisis that will be faced by this generation or future generations. It needs radical action, not more climate vandalism from the Tories.

“We can't drill our way out of environmental breakdown and Liz Truss’s proposals will do nothing to reduce household bills. We already have more oil and gas in current production than we can safely burn to keep to our climate commitments.

“We are approaching the end of the age of oil and gas, and the next Prime Minister must plan accordingly. That means revoking the Cambo licences and ensuring no new oil and gas licences whatsoever.”

He added: “The UN has warned that it is code red for humanity, and governments need to start acting like it. Last year global leaders came together for COP 26, where they promised the earth. It is only nine months later and many of the warm words have turned to dust.”

Another licensing round was already expected for the autumn, according to the UK Government’s energy security strategy, published in April.

The strategy says: “The North Sea Transition Authority plans to launch another licensing round in the autumn, taking into account the forthcoming climate compatibility checkpoint and the need for energy security. This will mean more domestic gas on the grid sooner.”

Conservative former cabinet minister John Redwood, who backs Truss for leader, said on Twitter: “Good news that Liz Truss plans to get more gas out of the North Sea to ease the squeeze. More permits and some changes of rules can boost output. The answer to an energy shortage and sky high prices is more supply.”

The Truss campaign has not commented on the reports.