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‘The EU made me do it’:  Eamon Ryan denies hauliers help with rising cost of diesel

Rising living costs in Ireland are being driven both by carbon taxes and demand for fuel, and Eamon Ryan’s recent spat with hauliers underscore the fact that the difficulties both factors cause in this country have been exacerbated by the EU. 

Hauliers are furious with the Minister for Transport for denying them a temporary increase in the €10 million diesel rebate scheme – a measure hauliers say is currently needed to offset fuel costs so that truckers then have the funds to afford the large investment required to purchase new lorries with lower emissions. The diesel rebate scheme pays a refund of up to 7.5c a litre to help hauliers and bus operators deal with spikes in the cost of fuel.

According to AA Ireland, Irish fuel prices have risen by a third in the last year, close to the highest ever recorded. Hauliers say that most of their operators have no viable current alternative to using diesel.

They also argue that their work is essential and that if rising fuel costs distort their operating costs they simply won’t have the funds to invest in lorries that use alternative fuels to diesel.  “Our members are the primary movers of goods in and out of Ireland,” Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) told The Times (Ireland). “They’re crippled with rising costs, including carbon tax, which is largely why the cost of living is increasing for everybody else.”

He is correct in that assessment. The rising cost of energy – and its worth stating again that supply is being restricted by Green policies, and costs are being inflated by carbon taxes – has a domino effect. Everything becomes more expensive to produce, to transport, to store. Every link in the chain is affected and the consumer pays the price in the end, while the Greens – and the government – get to boast about their climate efforts.

It’s significant that, in this instance, Ryan chose to pass the buck onto the EU. He claims, giving help to the hauliers with the cost of diesel would have “flouted EU policy” which is directing states away from any subsidies for fossil fuels.

According to the The Times (Ireland):

The proposal for “enhanced and streamlined” fuel rebates met a “wall of negativity”, according to Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA). He said that the government’s refusal to help hauliers with the rising price of diesel would undermine the €500 million package of measures announced last week to control the cost of living for households.

The haulage industry is “inflamed”, he said, after the Green Party leader said at a tense meeting on Thursday that he could not accept its commitment to invest in a cleaner fleet if the government agreed to more than double diesel rebates for a limited period. Ryan indicated that the plan would have flouted EU policy, which aims to curb state subsidies for fossil fuels.

“The minister is locked in an ideological straitjacket,” Drennan said. “He doesn’t see the big picture, which is that our members have no alternative to diesel at present. He also ignores that most countries in Europe still have diesel subsidies and incentives for new diesel vehicles.”

“We offered a timeline to take older vehicles off the road but we needed some concession on diesel costs to help safeguard our members’ proposed investment,” Drennan said. “Two new trucks would cost about as much as a new house in most parts of Ireland, a huge investment for our members, many of which are family businesses. But the incentive proposed to help us to go green was rejected, which is very disappointing.”

 

‘The EU made me do it’ has long been the excuse of hapless Irish government ministers whose bad policies cause real misery and hardship for Irish citizens.

Ryan’s point is that the EU, as part of its European Green Deal, is committed to reducing – and eventually phasing out entirely – the use of fossil fuels, and they have urged member states to also cut back on any subsidies the state provides for fossil fuels.

But he must also know that Drennan is correct when he says that many EU countries are simply ignoring that commitment. As a recent study in ‘Climate Policy’ noted: “Member States in the EU still subsidize both the consumption and production of fossil fuels by a myriad of different measures, despite pledges to reduce [fossil fuel subsidies] as part of the EU’s ambitious climate policy.

And the latest report from the European Court of Auditors has highlighted that “European Union nations often still tax and subsidize their energy sources in contradiction with their committed climate goals, and a majority spend more supporting fossil fuels than renewables.”

So Ryan must be aware that many EU countries are still subsidising fossil fuels – yet the Irish government seems more anxious to doff the cap to Brussels than to help its own hard-pressed citizens.

The current debacle with energy costs has highlighted yet again that, while most countries in the EU – in particular, members states like Poland – put their own nation’s requirements and the welfare of its people first, Irish politicians seem fixated with a servile desire to show Brussels that they are good and faithful servants, and the best in class at obeying the rules.

We’ve been pushed around for years regarding our own valuable resources from sugar production to fishing, but when it comes to energy we’re definitely in a league of our own.

The government rushed to close peat stations and stop peat harvesting early so that we could get ahead of our carbon emission commitment to the EU. It didn’t seem to matter a damn that our emissions from turf are a drop in the global ocean or that we had no real reliable alternatives.

Now we have the frankly insane situation where we are importing peat from abroad – by the truckload – for fuel and for horticultural purposes. The briquettes in the local shop are from Germany and Latvia, not Offaly, because their governments put their own people’s needs first rather than closing down a valuable resource to prove their green credentials to the European Union.

And ‘the EU made me do it’ is the excuse offered when thousands of workers devastated by job losses in the Midlands complain – or hundreds of thousands of households realise their energy bills have gone through the roof.

The ever-increasing carbon tax which is both wildly unpopular with voters and most devastating for poorer citizens. is also, of course, a EU commitment to which the political establishment slavishly adheres, even if it means our own people are left shivering in their homes.

It’s increasingly obvious that Ireland has become the patsy of Europe, ever-seeking to win the favour of a Union that doesn’t give a damn. It’s way past time to put the Irish people first.

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