Minister Bruton made the announcement this afternoon, using the Government’s favourite form of communication, the tweet:
— Richard Bruton (@RichardbrutonTD) September 23, 2019
What’s notable here is that the Irish Government is not adopting a policy of reducing the amount of oil that will be used in the Irish economy, at least not in the medium term. What the Government is doing is simply announcing that we will not produce any more oil and will instead buy it from others. This is indisputably good news for Saudi Arabia, and other brutal regimes from whom we buy our fuel.
In addition, the policy has no environmental impacts. A gallon of oil from Saudi Arabia has exactly the same impact on the Irish atmosphere as a gallon of oil extracted from the dogger bank, or elsewhere in Irish waters.
Ireland is exceptionally vulnerable to an interruption in energy supplies as it is:
“Europe imports 75% of its oil and 50% of its gas requirements. 33% of Europe’s gas comes from Russia. The UK, through which Ireland imports almost half our current gas requirements, imports more than 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day to meet its needs, and UK energy import dependency, currently at 36%, is anticipated to reach 55% by 2030.
Although a new Celtic electricity interconnector is currently being considered, Ireland currently has no direct link to mainland Europe gas or power networks. This poses a significant risk to our energy security in the event of gas interruptions – likely to be further increased when the UK is no longer a member of the EU. During the recent cold spell in early 2018 (Storm Emma), the UK, our only external source of natural gas via the gas interconnector, came close to being unable to meet its own gas demands.”
Oil and Gas produced offshore in Ireland actually has a much lower carbon impact than oil and gas imported from the Saudi Kingdom or the Russian Federation, for the fairly simple reason that you don’t need to transport it halfway around the globe. In fact, an industry report in 2016 suggested that the carbon impact of European oil and gas was as much as 30% lower than imported fuels.
It is, I think, important to understand the fundamental absurdity of Irish climate policy, which is not actually about reducing emissions, but about reducing emissions attributable to Ireland.
What does that mean?
Well, if an Irish power plant burns peat from an Irish bog, the emissions from the fuel are counted as Irish, as are the emissions from harvesting the fuel. If, on the other hand, that same power plant burns biomass from Australia or South America, we only have to count the emissions from burning the fuel. The emissions for transporting it all the way from Australia by boat? Someone else’s problem. The actual amount of carbon emitted is the same, or slightly higher, but we get to fiddle the figures. It is a tremendous scheme, or, if you prefer, a tremendous con.
In the meantime, that policy, while actually probably increasing total emissions, costs Irish jobs:
“Bord na Móna and the environment group An Taisce have clashed over plans to import thousands of tonnes of biomass wood products from Australia to Ireland for electricity generation.
The first 37,000-tonne shipment of the wood is due to arrive at Foynes Port on 3 August after a ten-week sail.
It will then be transported by dozens of lorries for “combustion trials” at two power stations in the midlands but neither of the stations in Offaly and Longford have yet received planning permission to burn biomass and An Taisce say the move is environmentally “unsustainable”.
Meanwhile, last night Bord na Móna suspended notice of redundancy served on 70 workers on Thursday at the company’s operation in Mountdillon, Co Longford.”
In the case of the offshore operators, the Irish Government is, as usual, trying a trick to please everybody. Oil exploration will be banned, but gas exploration will continue. Why is that?
The official line is that Gas is a lower-carbon fuel, and will “help with Ireland’s transition” to a low-carbon economy. The reality? We produce about 30 times as much gas as we do oil, and so the hope is that the big flashy “no more oil” announcement will win some Green votes in Dublin, but the quiet “keep going with the gas” nod and wink will keep plenty of votes in Foynes in County Limerick, where most of the offshore operators are serviced from.
In the meantime, we will continue to import more and more oil from those nice chaps in Saudi Arabia, at tremendous costs in terms of the environment, and a few young Fine Gaelers in UCD and Trinity will get to feel like they live in a progressive country.
It’s really all your fault, you know, Irish public. You’re the eejits who keep voting them in.
*Disclaimer: Many moons ago, in about 2008/9, yours truly worked as a Lobbyist for the Irish Offshore Operators Association. It was over a decade ago, and I have no ongoing financial interest in the sector, but it’s probably appropriate to declare the fact here.
*This article was updated to reflect the fact that the port of Foynes is in Limerick, and not, of course, Clare. Our apologies to the people of Foynes for the error.