The Minister gave us a good deal of explanation regarding this Bill but I noticed that he was strangely silent on some points on which Deputies would like to get precise information. He seemed to suggest that turf was to replace coal completely. As you, A Chinn Comhairle, have pointed out to the previous speaker, this is a turf-development Bill. At the same time, coal, turf, heavy oil, petrol and timber are all, more or less, related to turf and would compete with turf if they could be got cheaply enough and in sufficient quantities. Having regard to the contents of the Bill and the Minister's speech, the question at issue would seem to fall under two heads. We have to consider the position in the emergency period and the position in the post-emergency period. I have not spoken of it as the war period, because an emergency can last long after a war has ceased. During the emergency period, when we had no coal, the Minister and the Government very courageously tackled the question of fuel. Mistakes were made —bad mistakes—but nobody can make omelettes without breaking eggs, and dear, wet, poor turf, when there was nothing else available, was very acceptable. The Government are entitled to the credit for producing good, bad and indifferent turf.
Coming down to the post-emergency period, some time alternative fuels will appear as competitors with turf. The question is, how far we ought to proceed and how far those fuels will compete with turf which is at present our only source of fuel. In pre-war days, the Minister referred to a figure of 3,000,000 tons of coal as used here and others have spoken of 2,500,000 tons as the consumption in 1938. The Minister has referred to turf as having half the calorific value of coal. That is in briquette form and I am afraid that he is taking turf at its highest value. Some people would say that it takes three tons of turf to equal a ton of coal. If you take it that 2½ tons of turf are equal to a ton of coal, and if our requirements in 1938 were 2,500,000 tons of coal, it would appear as if the country would require about 6,250,000 tons of turf to be entirely self-supporting.
Some Deputies have spoken about the grates, ranges and boilers which were installed for the burning of turf. The Minister has pointed out that those were being installed in certain places. The last speaker spoke of turf ranges being installed in coal areas and coal ranges in turf areas, and I should like to point out that you cannot change the fuel to suit the type of range you have installed. In other words, if you opt for a grate which is efficient for coal, or if you opt for one which is efficient for turf, you have to stick to it. That is why we should welcome further particulars from the Minister as to what we are facing.
I do not know whether it would be outside the Minister's province to ask the British what amount of coal they will probably have for export to this country over a period of years, leaving out the question of an engagement about taking it. The Minister seems to think that coal is finished as far as this country is concerned and that we should have to rely on our own resources for turf. Of course, it is certain that all the turf that can be produced at the present time is all to the good. What I have said about turf and coal ranges applies also to turf and coal-houses. There are many places which are equipped to take in a little coal but they cannot take in turf in any quantity. That being so, it behoves us to make a careful estimate of the turf that will be used by this country. The Minister is really dealing only with the machine-won turf under this measure, and one wonders why this Bill had to be put through just at this time. Presumably, the three companies which were producing machine-won turf could have continued and been expanded, if necessary.
In this Bill there is a provision for erecting a steam plant on the bogs— at Clonsast and at another place somewhere further south. One would like to know from the Minister what is the reason for the development of machine-won turf, leaving out of consideration hand-won turf.
Apparently the steam plant which is to be erected on the bog will not be ready until 1952. By that time we shall still be in a position in which it will be necessary to import coal. I should like to know why the Minister wants to erect a steam plant some years before we reach the stage at which the production of turf will be sufficient to supply the whole country. Surely the Minister's attitude should be: "We are short of fuel for this country, we cannot get enough coal but we shall push on with the production of hand-won turf through the county councils and machine-won through these companies that are already working on it." It would appear as if by the time the steam plant is ready we shall not be as self-sufficient in turf. If, by that time it is found that sufficient coal can be imported surely it would be better to use coal at the Pigeon House to generate the necessary electricity and to leave the production of the bogs to the private consumer and those industries which require it?
When one comes to examine the figure at which turf can be sold, one is rather pessimistic about the price of machine-won turf. From the figures supplied it would appear that the cost of turf at Turraun is £1 0s. 8d. per ton. That is, I think, the cost delivered at the railway station or loaded in a lorry. While one is on the question of petrol lorries, I might mention that last night the Minister paid a tribute to the Turf Development Board and I think Deputy Morrissey spoke about the credit due to the Electricity Supply Board for maintaining the supply of electricity, but really during the emergency we seemed to be dependent on petrol lorries for carrying turf to such an extent that one shudders to think what would have happened if this country had been left without petrol. Certainly it would appear to the ordinary person as if the petrol lorry and petrol played as big a part in providing this country with turf as any of the other media mentioned by previous speakers.
I do not know if the Minister thinks that in the future the railway will be capable of carrying all the turf that is produced. He was silent on that point, but taking turf produced at Turraun and loaded on a railway wagon, I think the freight to Dublin is 12/- per ton. I allow 6/- per ton for cartage to the merchant's yard. The next item is delivery from the merchant's yard to the customer and for that I allow 11/-. I do not know if it is intended to distribute this machine-won turf through coal merchants but I have allowed to them, for the sake of argument, a profit of 7/6. That tots up to £2 17s. 2d. for a ton of turf. If you multiply that by 2½ it brings the price of the machine-won turf delivered to a private consumer to £7 2s. 11d. Now, I do not know what the future of coal is going to be, but I cannot imagine that either coal or, possibly, heavy oil will not be delivered to people at a price very much less than that. I would like to ask the Minister to let us know when he is replying how he can hope to compete with coal or heavy oil, if and when they return to the market. Of course, the Minister may say to me that they may never return, and from that point of view he is quite right, although I think it was Deputy Larkin who thought that coal might even become cheaper. Be that as it may, however, we have to face this heavy expenditure on turf. One wonders why there is this tremendous haste in putting up a plant on the bog, which will not be ready for six years and which, if one takes the figures as they look, will not produce fuel enough if there is a shortage of coal, which would mean taking turf from the private producer.
That brings one to the question of hand-won turf and why hand-won turf has not been dealt with. An extraordinary system has been built up, which is, possibly, a result of starting in a hurry, by which the turf is handled, as far as the ordinary individual can see, far too often. I suggest that we should consider the ideal system, and the cheapest and best way of handling hand-won turf.
I am not in any way referring now to getting turf out of the bog; I am assuming that the county council engineers are working that to the best advantage; but when the turf gets to the side of the road, I am beginning to wonder whether some of the various operations that follow could not be cut out. First of all, there is the bringing of the turf to the side of the road, then bringing it to the railway station, then bringing it up to town, and then bringing it out to the Phoenix Park or to Ringsend, afterwards bringing it to the merchants' yards, and then distributing it to the consumers. One wonders why some of these operations could not be cut out. Could not turf be dried in some way by stacking it on the side of the road at the bog, and thus save bringing it up to the Park to be stacked there? I should like the Minister to tell us what the difficulty is, and why, after six years of emergency conditions, we should not be able to cut out some of the operations connected with the handling of hand-won turf. A very clever manufacturer once said that every time you touched material you added to its ultimate cost.
I remember—I think it was the winter before last—that there was some difficulty about people out in Lucan getting turf, and what, apparently, none of the people in Lucan could understand was why you could not stop some of the petrol lorries that were rolling through Lucan en route for the Phoenix Park, and fill up the depots there, thus saving in labour and saving in cost. The Minister has said that he would welcome any suggestions, but it seems to me that there are far too many handlings of the hand-won turf, and that there should be some practical way of stacking it at the side of the road at the bog, keeping it there until it was fit for use, and then bringing it up, either by railway or, possibly, even by petrol lorry, and delivering it straight to the consumer. At any rate, there are far too many handlings on the road at present, and I think that my suggestion is the only way by which you will get increased efficiency so far as the hand-won end of turf production is concerned.
I shall come now to one last remark. Apparently, in ten years we are going to work up to production of only 1,000,000 tons of machine-won turf. Some people suggested that that would fill only one-eighth of the country's requirements, but according to my calculations I think it would be about one-sixth. Now, surely, that will not solve any of our fuel problems, and, accordingly, I would urge the Minister to go slow on a plant which will not be ready for six years and for which it is doubtful if we can get the fuel without taking it from some other section of the community. In conclusion, I should like the Minister to look into the matter of whether or not he can reduce the number of handlings of hand-won turf.