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Government’s plan for fuel shortage: Stay safe, stay at home?

One thing that’s almost a reassuring constant about Government: It never learns. Credit to Eavan Murray at the Indo for this scoop:

Delegates were given a scenario of a 20pc diesel supply deficit in September and a 35pc drop in supply in December. The third and most extreme scenario proposed for February 2023, is where gas and oil supplies cannot meet the demand for electricity generation or farmers preparing to cut silage.

The Irish Independent can reveal that in the event of a national fuel crisis, emergency contingency measures discussed at the high-level meeting include:

:: All non-essential workers will be ordered to work from home

:: A limit will be placed on all non-essential car travel

:: A strict limit on the amount of fuel motorists can buy at any one time

:: The implementation of an immediate and strict reduction in the speed limit on motorways.

“Non-essential travel banned”, eh? Where have we heard that one before?

One might think that, if the prospect of fuel shortages in six or eight months is a reasonable possibility, then Government would be preparing strategic countermeasures now. For example, one thing we could be doing – though at current prices this would be expensive – is to dramatically increase the stockpiles in the national strategic petroleum reserve, meaning that the country has three or four months of supply on hand to ease us through a shortage. It would certainly be expensive to buy all that additional oil now, but it would also be much less expensive to do so that ordering, effectively, a second national lockdown in three years to deal with a fuel supply crisis.

Of course, politics and democracy being what it is, politicians don’t want to spend money on a crisis that might not happen. So, if it does happen, they’ll simply say it could not have been foreseen, and spend some portion of the money they could have spent on oil today on marketing campaigns then, polluting the radio stations with nice ladies with soothing south Dublin accents telling you how to cut down on your fuel usage.

What the chances of a fuel shortage really are, nobody can say for certain. Chances are, knowing European politicians, that there won’t actually be one: The sanctions they have placed on Russia, designed to reduce Russian oil imports, can and will be relaxed, despite public protestations about their commitment to Ukraine, if the alternative is fuel protests in Paris and Berlin and Dublin. Politicians are firstly and foremostly creatures of self-preservation. Common sense should prevail, if push comes to shove.

The real danger, frankly, comes from those who will see, and seek to present, any fuel crisis as a peculiar form of opportunity dressed up as a problem: Give Eamon Ryan a fuel scarcity, and he won’t see families trapped at home, or old folks struggling to heat houses. He’ll see a case for more bicycle subsidies and a windmill on every roof. We might well find, if a fuel crisis emerges onto the horizon this autumn, that Greens across Europe are suddenly Vladmir Putin’s most staunch opponents, willing to present any relaxation of sanctions, however temporary, as a betrayal of the men fighting on the front lines in the Donbass. That, by the way, would be nonsense: You can’t support Ukraine financially or militarily if Europe’s economy is flattened because nothing can move for a lack of diesel.

In any case, the sensible thing to do, if you’re an older person who relies on oil or gas heating, is to stock up your tank now, in the summer. The last thing you need to worry about, this winter, is whether the politicians will allow you to buy a quarter tank at Christmas. Take the decision out of their hands, and get the thing filled tomorrow. Prices aren’t going to fall any time soon, anyway.

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