The presidency of Barack Obama was, in the final analysis, characterised much more by style than by substance. His eight years were, of course, laced with meaning, as the first African-American president, and that is not without its importance. However, I would suggest that, like most presidencies, Mr Obama will be remembered more for his words than for his actions.

His words were indeed memorable, with perhaps the best rhetorical flourish (and the best speechwriters) since his predecessor Jack Kennedy. And one of his pithier quotes, on America’s foreign policy, came to mind this week: “Don’t do stupid s***”.

It came to mind after Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader and would-be Prime Minister, signalled his intent to block all new oil and gas developments when in office. Sir Keir is not a man blessed with style, and may instead be remembered for his substance. And whilst that would and should generally be regarded as a good thing, on this matter he would be well served to travel to Scotland and change his rhetoric, as well as his mind.

Labour has become favourite to win the next General Election largely because it is not the Conservative Party. Either a decade and a half in power, or an economic crisis, are usually enough in and of themselves to precipitate a change, and when both of those arrive together it is almost inevitable.

Sir Keir finds himself in this position almost without saying anything; without signalling much intent about his direction of travel. This is useful inasmuch as policy revelations can upset groups of people. Sir Keir is not Boris Johnson. He does not have the rhetorical flair or the campaigning ability to say two or three different things to two or three different groups of people and have them all believe him, and vote for him.

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In order to secure a majority, Sir Keir needs to win the red wall (traditional Labour voters in the north of England who support Brexit) and the blue wall (centrist, Europhile voters across the south), as well as knocking a large number of holes in the Scottish National Party’s yellow wall.

In attempting to do so, he is starting to say things. His apparent policy position in opposition to the extraction of maximum revenue from the North Sea will undoubtedly have had some heads nodding. Those blue wall voters for instance, who may be more attuned to a raw environmentalist message and who may see London and the M4 corridor as the spine of the UK’s economy (to a degree they have a point about that), may have found Sir Keir’s pronouncement to represent modernisation and climate leadership without economic consequence.

However, not only does it not represent those things; it also gives him and his Scottish leader Anas Sarwar a problem in their efforts to knock those bricks out of the yellow wall.

I can understand why Sir Keir erred without realising he was erring. We talk so much about the opportunities that renewable energy presents to the Scottish and British economy, and we are right to do so. Scotland is geographically blessed. We are, arguably, in the best place in the world to turn both onshore and offshore wind, as well as tidal power, into enough energy to make our own domestic requirements look like a drop in the ocean. The opportunity to export green hydrogen - a sustainable and renewable source of electricity from a politically stable country - is a stunningly attractive proposition in a global energy market currently still heavily reliant on Vladimir Putin’s gas.

However, energy policy and our energy future is complex; more so than Sir Keir and his energy lead, and predecessor, Ed Miliband, apparently understand. The end of hydrocarbons is the destination, but we cannot just click our fingers to get there. We have to go on a carefully constructed journey, because the renewables industry cannot yet operate on the scale required to sustain the revenues and jobs of the hydrocarbons industry.

Only by going on this journey, this transition to net zero, can we generate the finance to pay for the seismic investment into net zero and train and retrain the workforce which will be its backbone. This is a matter which requires nuance in a country increasingly intolerant of it. It requires an ability to articulate a position which simultaneously recognises our climate crisis and the urgent action we need to take, and the fact that we rely on the profits of the current industry to pay for the future one.

There’s that word: profit. Of course, any self respecting climate change marcher will be armed with a banner demanding we focus on “planet, not profit” or the even cooler “people, not profit”. But the truth is that in a complex policy area with the highest possible stakes, we need grown-up and intelligent policy made by grown-up and intelligent people, and that means recognising that the profit motive is the single most critical characteristic of the transition to net zero.

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In my day job running a small business, one of my brands is Zero Matters, a consultancy which footprints, plans and delivers the net zero journey of our clients. We have an unapologetically action-based approach which demands that clients accelerate to net zero profitably. We don’t deface buildings or glue ourselves to anything; we help our clients to dramatically reduce their carbon emissions while still making the profit required to keep their staff in jobs and continue to invest in sustainability.

This is a microcosm, a metaphor indeed, for the net zero agenda; if you want to reach the destination, you have to go on the journey.

It is fairly clear that Mr Sarwar understands this to a more significant degree than does Sir Keir, and there are rumours that he has privately rebuked his southern colleagues. The GMB union issued a more public roasting.

The lesson for Sir Keir is that if he is going to dive into a massive policy area such as the transition to fully renewable energy, he needs to understand the nuance. He must resist the temptation to pander to those who tell him to jump the country, the industry, and its workers off a cliff in the presumption that they will simply ride on a unicorn into their new job in renewables.

Of course, Sir Keir is a man who will already understand that governing is harder than campaigning, and when his feet are under the desk he will retreat from the cliff edge. However, his lead is narrow and his victory will be ensured only if he does not misstep; only if he listens to the words of President Obama.

Andy Maciver is Founding Director of Message Matters and Zero Matters