John Downes makes a good case for the “business as usual” thinking for hydrocarbon exploration in his letter (‘Intelligent discussion needed on economic matters’). However he is mistaken in several important ways.

Firstly, in the history of oil/gas exploration off west Wales, there has never been any suggestion that any of the required infrastructure would be situated anywhere on the Cardigan Bay coast. If required this already exists in Milford Haven and there would be no economic benefit at all for mid Wales. There is also the possibility the income from wildlife tourism might actually decline.

Secondly, all of Cardigan Bay is protected (on paper at least) from damaging operations, such as seismic surveys and oil/gas extraction. In February this year the West Wales Marine Special Area of Conservation was designated specifically to protect harbour porpoise. This SAC includes almost the whole of Cardigan Bay, wraps around the Ll?n Peninsula and the western headlands of Pembrokeshire, and extends offshore towards the UK/ Irish boundary. The seismic surveying proposed for this year would be partly within the protected area.

Thirdly, it is now recognised that we are living in the midst of climate and extinction crises. The Welsh and even the Westminster governments have signed up to this. We urgently need to cut down on the use of the fossil fuel which supports our current lifestyles and leave it in the ground.

But, while one arm of government makes the right noises, another proceeds as if the environmental crisis just doesn’t exist. I refer to the Oil and Gas Authority, which funded seismic surveying in 2018, and offered licences to 61 companies to look for hydrocarbons in 229 areas around the British coastline. Their website shows that one new “block” north of Strumble Head was offered to the oil/gas companies in 2018, while 12 more blocks, many within the protected zone, are already licensed. The OGA may make available further areas within Cardigan Bay this year, according to its website. So it is time for joined-up thinking.

Finally, Mr Downes let’s his true colours show by branding politicians with environmental concerns as “bunny-huggers” - hardly an example of the “intelligent discussion” he says he is seeking.

Yours etc, Jeremy Moore, Penrhyncoch.

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