RISHI Sunak’s claims home-grown oil and gas is better for the environment have been exposed as 'false'.

An investigation by The National’s sister paper – which looks at analysis by Uplift - has revealed UK gas production is twice as polluting as the fuel being imported via pipelines from Norway, which makes up more than half of Britain’s imports.

The Prime Minister - who visited Scotland last month to announce 100 new oil and gas licences for North Sea developments - said that "we should max out the opportunities that we have here in the North Sea", claiming that "it's also good for the climate because the alternative is shipping energy here from halfway around the world with three or four times a carbon emission".

But Sunak was comparing the practice to only the dirtiest form of imports, which campaigners have warned only "make up a fraction of our overall imports".

In Norway, polluting practices such as flaring and venting have been banned for decades.

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Data shows that UK oil, which makes up the majority of the fuels extracted from the North Sea, is 27% more polluting than typical oil imports.

The UK is in the bottom half of environmental impact for oil producers – ranked 38th out of the 66 nations where data is available.

Statistics from the UK Government’s North Sea Transition Authority show that the average carbon intensity of UK gas production is “lower than the average carbon intensity of all sources of natural gas imported to the UK, except pipeline imports from Norway”.

But importantly, 34% of UK gas supplies come from Norwegian pipeline imports, with domestic gas sitting at 38%, according to statistics for 2022.

Despite making up roughly the same amount of the UK's gas supply, imports from Norway only contribute to 7% of carbon source emissions, compared to the UK domestic share of 24%.

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, said: “The claim that ‘homegrown’ gas is better for the environment than imports is false.

“To make this claim, the Government is comparing UK gas to the dirtiest LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas], imports yet these make up a fraction of our overall imports.

“What they conveniently leave out is UK gas is in the bottom half of the global league table for overall cleanliness and it is twice as polluting as gas from Norway which is where we get the vast majority of our imports.

“Moreover, 70% of what’s left in the North Sea is oil, which definitely isn’t cleaner than the global average and the vast majority of which we export anyway. So the Government’s focus on LNG comparisons is a complete distraction.”

Sunak’s energy plan has been roundly criticised by political opponents and allies, as well as from climate campaigners and scientists.

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The latest statistics from the North Sea Transition Authority show that imports from Qatar, the United States and Peru have a significantly higher carbon intensity than the UK and Norway – but only make up around a quarter of the UK’s gas use.

Andy Samuel, the outgoing chief executive of the North Sea Transition Authority, has admitted that new licences being approved will do little to change the UK’s dependence on imported gas.

He added: “I think it’s unlikely, given it’s a mature basin and the geology is well-known, that we’re suddenly going to have a situation where we are significantly growing production again.”

The Scottish Government’s Energy and Wellbeing Economy Secretary, Neil Gray, has labelled Sunak’s decision to “max out” the North Sea as “extreme”.

He added: “We don’t think that maximum and unlimited extraction is compatible with our net zero ambitions.”

A spokesperson for the UK Government's Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, said: “The UK is a world leader on net zero, cutting emissions faster than any other G7 country, and last year renewables accounted for over 40% of our electricity, increasing to almost 48% in the first quarter of this year.

“However, even in 2050, when we have reached net zero, it is estimated that the UK may still be using a quarter of the gas we do now.  As well as strengthening the UK’s energy independence, this vital industry is protecting over 200,000 jobs as we grow the UK economy.

“Independent research shows that domestically producing gas is on average almost four times cleaner than importing gas in Liquefied Natural Gas form and we have strict measures in place to ensure emissions from oil and gas production are accounted for in our binding domestic carbon budgets.”