I am glad that the point about the feasibility of having a generating station at Arigna has been raised. The matter was brought up before, as the Deputy said, and there were certain discussions at the time. I gathered then that the Electricity Supply Board were having the possibilities examined. I do not know whether or not it would be an economic proposition but I think it is the only hope of any future prospect for the Arigna coalfield. When other fuel is available anyway freely it is very difficult, if not impossible, to sell Arigna coal outside a certain small area or on any sort of decent scale. Until the matter has been examined fully by those qualified to determine and decide whether or not it would be an economic proposition—and I am not speaking now of economics purely from the point of view of the Electricity Supply Board but from the national point of view taking all the factors into consideration—it should not be determined that the project is not a feasible one until we have evidence that will convince even the Deputy who represents that area.
All Parties, so far as I am aware, are in favour of producing our maximum electricity requirements from turf. The utilisation of our turf resources for the generating of electricity ought not to be regarded as a relief scheme. It is not a relief scheme. We, like the Government before us, did not look upon it as a stop-gap or something to provide employment.
It has been said that turf is a most costly form of electricity generation. I do not subscribe to that view. Ton for ton at a particular time it may cost more than oil or coke but there is more than the mere cutting, saving and burning of turf to be taken into consideration. The reclaimed land and its value to the State is a major consideration in calculating the cost to the State as distinct from the cost to the Electricity Supply Board. In passing, may I say to Deputy Cogan that the Electricity Supply Board, operating as it does at the moment under statute, could not do what he suggests in relation to surplus turf? One of the things we are inclined to forget, apart altogether from outside, is that the Electricity Supply Board has to operate on a commercial basis and has to make ends meet. Not only has it to make ends meet but it has to make good on its charges with 5 per cent. in addition to the State. If it were necessary, in order fully to develop and exploit our own resources, to give some liberty in relation to the cost to the Electricity Supply Board to take them out of the straitjacket which the statute puts on them at the moment I think that is something that might be considered.
With regard to the question of milled peat—I am sorry I was not here in time to hear him—the Minister went a little further or, perhaps, conveyed more to the House in relation to that particular project than he meant to on the Second Reading. I do not think the experiment—it is not yet out of the experimental stage—enables us to be in any way emphatic as to the future of milled peat. I am not to be misrepresented there nor do I want it to be in any way thought that I am questioning the work at the moment. Certainly, I should like to give it every possible encouragement because, if we can produce milled peat successfully and if it can be fed successfully into the stations at a cheaper rate and with a lower moisture content than the ordinary sod turf, then that is all to the good.
I would, as I say, ask the Minister to be fully satisfied himself that the question of putting a generating station at Arigna is an impossible one before he would allow the matter to drop. I again suggest that if it is necessary—and I am not in any way reflecting on the technical advice and assistance at our own disposal—to bring in outside expert, technical experience, our view on that matter is that it ought to be done.
I should like to get an assurance—I know that Bord na Móna have been working along the right lines in relation to what I am going to say now —that every possible care will be taken in regard to the bogs which are now being developed for the generating of electricity in relation to the land which is being reclaimed. I think very considerable parts of those reclaimed areas can be made first-class agricultural land. Those parts which will not carry agricultural produce can, without any difficulty whatever and without any very large expense, be made entirely suitable for afforestation. I would suggest to Deputies, who may have some quite genuine and sincere doubts as to the wisdom of proceeding with the turf development in relation to electricity and on the question as to the cost per ton of turf as against the cost per ton of coal or oil, that they ought not to lose sight of the value to the nation of the land which would be so reclaimed.
There was a certain amount of criticism—I am not going to go into that now—because we allowed other stations to be built—coal and oil stations. I do not think that was a mistake at all. At that time, we were facing a position, in so far as we could see it, that, working at full capacity, we would not have increased our generating power to the point of meeting the consumption demand within ten years. The Minister knows quite as well as I do that the demand was growing at an annual rate equal to the output of a fairly substantial generating station. The annual rate of increase in any one year would be greater than the total output of, say, Clonsast.
There are a number of other points which we will get further opportunities of dealing with but I feel that the board has, under very great difficulties, carried out its job remarkably well. There has been criticism in the past, mainly by the Minister himself, at the rate of progress in connection with rural electrification and, of course, a considerable amount of the money, which we are providing under this Money Resolution, will be required to meet the additional cost of that. The Minister talked on many occasions about not keeping up to the schedule of ten years. The Minister knows quite well that when that ten year period was set it was set under conditions completely different from those which afterwards developed. I think it is known to him also that, apart altogether from the scarcity and the difficulty of getting most of the materials which are required, the biggest snag we were up against was the scarcity of trained personnel. People competent to carry out that sort of work are not trained overnight. I think, in all the circumstances, that the rural electrification scheme has been going ahead as rapidly as could reasonably be expected in the circumstances of the times. There is no doubt that it has brought into the rural areas, which have been fortunate enough to have obtained it up to date, very great joy and has certainly done a great deal to remove some of the drudgery from rural life. May I say that its greater progress will also be helped by the dwindling of reluctance on the part of many people living in rural areas to agree to take it in when they are being canvassed to do so?
I think that turf policy in relation to electricity ought to get every encouragement. It certainly got it from me. I would say further to some of the people outside the House, who have criticised it on the question of cost and on the question of the rate of delivery into the State, that they are being unreasonable. I remember it was put up to me, during my time as Minister, that it was not unreasonable to ask Bord na Móna to quote a price per ton in relation to the development of Boora bog which was then supposed to come into operation in 1954 and to quote on delivery what X tons per day or per week would cost; that if they were not prepared to give that information and that undertaking in relation to the year 1954, then they were acting unreasonably and were not approaching this question in a commercial way. The answer to that, of course, was very simple. The answer I made was that I had no guarantee whatever in relation to any other fuel, either oil or coal, as to the quantity, if any, which we would get in 1954, 1955, or 1956 or as to price. Those were the factors which were completely and entirely beyond our control while for our own fuel it could at least be said that it would be largely, if not entirely, within our own capacity with regard to the rate of supply and the price to be paid for it.
I can only conclude by saying that I am perfectly satisfied that the Electricity Supply Board and Bord na Móna are doing a good job and that the money which is being asked, although, comparatively speaking, it is a huge sum for a country as small as ours, is a sum that the House, I think, can vote without any question or doubt. I believe that it is a very good investment which will give an excellent return not merely to the nation but to the individual citizens of the nation.