TWO things happened last week on the energy front that are not entirely unrelated. First, Rishi Sunak rolled back on targets for moving towards net-zero CO2 emissions.

But second, the price of oil on international markets jumped to its highest point this year. No, folks, fossil fuels have not departed the scene just yet.

In fact, they are undergoing something of a revival. And that has a lot of implications, especially for Scotland.

The Tory backtracking on emissions is getting them a lot of stick but we need to grasp that this retreat is happening in a lot of European countries, regardless of their politics. Germany, for instance, has been reopening extremely dirty lignite coal mines – how else do you quit importing Russian natural gas?

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As it is, last year Germany only managed to cut its greenhouse emissions by a little under 2%. But it needs to hit an average of 6% per annum if it is to reach its 2030 interim target, never mind Berlin’s hopelessly optimistic net zero by 2045.

For instance, Germany has nowhere near the current capacity or trained workforce to produce and install the number of domestic heat pumps needed to hit its target. Ditto the UK, of course.

All of which suggests that the insanely optimistic interim (by 2030ish) emissions deadlines are more political wishful thinking than practical reality. Now before you start jumping up and down, my point is not that I am disavowing the need for emergency action to avoid calamitous climate change – quite the opposite.

But it is clear we have set objectives that can’t be achieved in the short term, which opens the likelihood that folk like Sunak will use this as a political excuse to roll back genuine affirmative action. Sunak’s (below) midcourse correction last week was pure political opportunism designed to win – or at least stem losses – at next year’s General Election. And it may work.

Which brings us to the rise in oil prices. Oil hit $95 a barrel last week, the highest cost for 10 months. The price fell back a bit as traders (aka speculators) took profits, but both Texas and North Sea benchmark prices still remained over $90.

The main cause is the restriction on global output imposed by Saudi Arabia and the extended Opec group (which includes Russia). There are other factors at work, not least the rise in the value of the dollar on the back of high American interest rates and the strength of the US economy. Oil and gas are priced in US dollars so if the American currency gets stronger, so do fossil fuel prices. However, there appear to be longer-term factors also at work.

The National:

Principally, the global economy is starting to price in the fact that the interim targets for emissions reduction are hopelessly wide of the mark.

That means more oil and gas will be needed in the interim. But this demand rise is happening after a period when oil companies had started to cut back on fossil fuel investment and prospecting.

This could produce a classic price “scissors” with demand forging ahead of potential supply. Goldman Sachs, the big US investment bank, has just raised its prediction for the future price of oil to around $100, suggesting that rising global demand has offset the recent increase in US oil and gas production.

A prolonged period of higher oil prices will have interesting implications. It would certainly provide a financial windfall for the treasury of an independent Scotland. An indy Scotland would have extensive dollar and foreign currency reserves.

But the main problem is that costlier oil is adding to the already ginormous spike in the cost of living. Last week’s news that UK prices were up by only 6.7% in the year to August – a mite down from 6.8% the month before – got acres of friendly coverage in the Tory press. How stupid do they think we are?

For starters, the official statistics are nowhere accurate enough to believe that 6.7 number. Besides, even a 6.7% jump means inflation is going like an express train.

Here's the big contradiction: when the price of basic necessities starts to rise, we cut down on non-essentials. This produces perverse results. If running a petrol car gets more expensive because oil is dearer, you don’t switch to an electric one.

Instead, the sales of electric vehicles start to fall. That’s just what is happening in the US. Reason: EVs cost a lot more than petrol cars. So you can’t afford to shell out on an EV up front. You simply lump it and keep your old banger. Or perhaps buy a cheap Chinese EV – except, of course, Europe is busily putting import taxes on Chinese products.

My point is that the transition to net zero is turning out to be quite complicated. It’s hardly a surprise, but it suggests we need to be a bit cannier in how we manage it.

So far, for instance, Scotland has seen little of any green jobs bonanza. Using bogus employment predictions as a carrot to impose unachievable emissions targets is political pie-in-the-sky. A wee economy like Scotland’s should be parleying its remaining fossil fuel reserves into the investment nest egg needed to re-industrialise.

Or where do you think the cash is going to come from? And we need independence desperately so we can control our natural resources – oil, gas, wind, rare metals – not give them away.

Next, we need to shift the energy policy emphasis in Scotland from control and regulation to increased investment. In particular, if we are to switch from domestic gas to heat pumps then we had better start manufacturing them in quantity.

And training the engineers to install them en masse. Otherwise, we are just posturing. Mind you, given the recent experience in (not) building island ferries, one might wonder where Scotland’s managerial and engineering expertise has disappeared to.

After that, we need to grasp that the technology simply does not exist yet to move us from the interim emissions reductions – those associated with removing oil and gas from domestic heating and transport – to full net zero.

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This latter requires the move away from traditional plastics, which will occupy the bulk of fossil fuel expansion to 2050. And we need to do this as a global community just when the West has decided to start a new Cold War with China.

Such a vision should govern Scotland’s R&D expenditure and our future foreign policy. Simply being a cheerleader for the EU big boys is no guarantee that Scotland’s interests will be met.

Scotland needs to stop pretending it can decarbonise on its own. Or pretend to be climate change virtuous in a complex world where diplomacy and compromise rule. When you learn to fly an aeroplane, you are taught not to “chase the instruments” but to look out of the window occasionally and see whether or not you are upside down.

This is also good advice when it comes to framing energy policy. We need a policy that works, and which moves us forward practically. So far, our energy policy has been more about political grandstanding.