A few weeks ago, when the Irish government announced a tax cut for fuel, they made a claim which was such a stretch that future generations of elastic bands should study it for tips.
Responding to the ongoing energy crisis, Fine Gael Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said “The causes of these price pressures are not within our control.”
What’s remarkable about this claim is, not only are high fuel prices largely within the government’s control, but increasing energy prices has been an explicit, intentional policy of the government for years now.
Of course Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent Europe’s energy supply into a tail spin – there’s no denying that. No matter who was in government, there would be a degree of turbulence and prices would almost certainly increase.
But that does nothing to explain why, for example, Ireland’s electricity prices were among the most expensive in Europe last year, long before the invasion.
Irish electricity prices are among the more expensive in Europe but trail those of our nearest neighbour, the UK, a survey shows https://t.co/2u4iBRYUcw
— Irish Times Business (@IrishTimesBiz) December 8, 2021
It doesn’t explain why, in 2018, the Fuel Price Index ranked Ireland as one of the most expensive countries in Europe for fuel. And it doesn’t explain why last year the AA was warning that petrol and diesel were hitting record highs – before a single Russian boot had set foot on Ukrainian soil.
Petrol and diesel prices hit record highs after rising more than 25% in last year, AA data shows https://t.co/jGVXQd6rnz
— The Irish Times (@IrishTimes) November 23, 2021
If Vladimir Putin had decided to sleep in on the day of the invasion and called the whole thing off, that would not change any of these facts. The situation may not have been as bad for the time being, but with or without Russia’s antics, Ireland would still have crushing energy prices, as we have had for years.
Understanding this is not complicated either – in fact, the government have outright told us how and why this was going to be the case. Most of us just weren’t listening at the time.
As reported by the Independent in 2019: ‘We want to force private motorists out of their cars’
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) June 18, 2019
The piece reads:
“Motorists are to be forced from their cars under a plan the Government says is necessary to avoid a “climate apocalypse.”
A revolution in transport is planned over the next decade, with Transport Minister Shane Ross saying the policy is “to get people out of private cars because they are the biggest offenders for emissions.”
The excise duty on diesel is to be hiked, while all fossil fuels will be repeatedly slapped with increases in carbon taxes. As an alternative to using private cars, the Climate Action Plan commits the Government to investing in public transport and cycling infrastructure.
For those who insist on having a car, the plan is to make electric vehicles (EVs) the only viable option.”
Note, by the way, that this article was from three years ago. And yet today, only 3 government ministers and junior ministers out of a total 35 drive electric vehicles themselves, despite being on salaries most ordinary citizens can only dream of. The remaining 91.5% still happily drive gas guzzlers.
A Coalition of fuel guzzlers: only three Government ministers use electric vehicles https://t.co/gkfs1rIOJn
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) March 19, 2022
The government has also acknowledged themselves at the end of last year that electric vehicles are “not affordable” for many people. Their words, not mine.
Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton yesterday described this as "an ambitious" target https://t.co/zSfrjitlx6
— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) October 13, 2021
Gross hypocrisy aside, let’s be extra charitable and say maybe our politicians are sincerely very concerned about climate change. Maybe they think it’s a necessary evil for the greater good of the planet. Grand.
But if that’s the case, they shouldn’t tell us that this is some terrible disaster that came out of left field and which was beyond their control. They should be honest and admit that not only was it within their control, but they actually set out years ago with the full knowledge and intent of making fuel more expensive “for the greater good.” All Russia did was speed up the process. Other than the timing, it’s mission accomplished.
This is not a policy that went wrong – it’s actually working perfectly, almost exactly as planned. This is precisely what people asked for when they demanded green policies.
Even now, as the energy crisis continues to spiral out of control, Eamon Ryan – the man in charge of our energy supply – is urging Ireland and the EU to cut imports of Russian fossil fuels.
Eamon Ryan says Ireland can ‘take on Putin regime’ by cutting imports of Russian fossil fuels. So is Eamon going to subsidise everybody when it comes to the cost of gas, electricity , diesel, petrol? Of course he won’t. https://t.co/Fk5wTv4l4e
— Niall Boylan (@Niall_Boylan) March 21, 2022
According to Eurostat, the EU receives 27% of its crude oil from Russia, 41% of its natural gas, and 47% of its coal. Russia is the #1 external supplier of energy for the European Union.
Prices are already at record highs, and Eamon Ryan wants to cut off Europe’s biggest energy supplier on top of that. It is nothing short of demented.
Ultimately, we need to start having a real conversation about the real cost of climate policies in this country. It doesn’t just mean sharing a speech by Greta Thunberg on social media, or holding a placard at a climate protest.
It means excruciatingly painful economic sacrifices which we are only now beginning to get a real taste of. Until people understand that, the coming challenges are going to be all the more bewildering.