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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Apr 1975

Vol. 280 No. 2

Private Members' Business. - International Energy Programme Agreement: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Agreement establishing an international energy programme. —(Minister for Transport and Power).

Prior to Private Members' Business I was making some points about the proposal before the House for agreement on the international energy programme. The basic assumption behind any legislation or agreement laid before this House is that the problem concerned has been examined by the Government and that being so, that they prepare and introduce either a Bill for the consideration of the Oireachtas or, as in this case, an international agreement.

It is assumed, too, that the Bill or the agreement introduced is, in the opinion of the Government of the day, a solution to the problem that presents itself. The problem in question here is that of sources of energy and the way in which the various energy supplies are shared and used.

From our experience during the past number of years we have had the problem of control by multi-national oil companies of the energy needs of this country. When the Minister is recommending this agreement to the House I shall assume it to be his considered opinion that the agreement we would enter into, that is, assuming the House so agrees, would be the solution to the control of our energy sources by the multi-nationals and would solve the problem. On page 1 of the agreement before us we read that the Government of the Republic of Austria and various other countries, including our own, desire to promote secure oil supplies on reasonable and equitable terms. If we turn, then, to page 79 of the agreement we note what is meant in the agreement by the words "equitable terms". This phrase brings us back to the whole question of the problem of the control by multi-nationals. There are set out various systems of voting in the event of a decision having to be made within the terms of this agreement.

The system of voting seems reasonable and fair but when one considers the implication in that suggested system, one is confronted with this whole problem of control by multi-national companies because the system of voting is weighted very heavily against smaller countries such as ours. I would recommend, for example, that the percentage of oil imported into any country is the system that should be used rather than the system of oil consumed. The present system is weighted completely in favour of America, Canada and the Netherlands. Together, those three countries can control any vote or decision under this agreement.

On a point of order— could we have a quorum because there are seven people from the Opposition side present and the Minister has no back-up at all? Obviously, the Government do not seem to be a bit interested in this extremely important agreement which they have signed blindfolded.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

I was making the point that in the introduction of any agreement or Bill the basic assumption is that the Bill or agreement will solve a particular problem. The particular problem now is the control of our energy resources from outside this State lying in the hands of the multi-national organisations. The proposal the Minister has before him, instead of removing this control, merely compounds the difficulty. I suggest that the Minister should bring back this agreement and do as the French Government have very wisely done, excuse ourselves from participating.

Nowhere is this control by the multi-nationals more obvious than when it comes to voting rights. There, the multi-nationals have complete control through their Governments. The Dutch, the Americans and the Canadians through their block voting can control any decision under this agreement for the benefit of their multi-national oil companies. We know the problems these oil companies can create and have created. We do not have to go outside this city to see these problems. This has been brought home to us for some days past when we have a clamp-down on industry because of the decisions of oil companies and workers particularly dealing with oil companies.

If we had a nationally-owned oil company, as in most other countries in Europe and in the world, we would have some control over the importation and distribution of natural resources—oil and others. It seems obvious that we have such resources on our shores. This control should be in the hands of the Oireachtas and the people. The Minister is suggesting that we hand over further control to the multi-nationals instead of reducing their powers and our reliance upon the structure operating at present. That structure is such that you have multi-national companies trading under various names basically owned by the countries in which their main offices exist, the American, Canadian and Dutch organisations.

I would have assumed that the Minister, having recognised this problem after the October war with all the difficulties we experienced with supplies and the distressing queues outside petrol stations, the shortages experienced and the effect on industry, and recognising the problems that have arisen again in the past few days when we are again facing oil and petrol shortages at a time when we have over 103,000 unemployed and a situation arising because of control by multi-nationals in which more people are to be thrown out of employment, would not seriously consider pushing this agreement through the House. One would imagine that having heard the arguments made by various spokesmen on the Opposition side, the Minister would see the wisdom of the case made and accept that it is wrong at this time to hand further control to the oil companies through their national Governments. Instead, we should be setting up our own organisation to explore and exploit our energy resources and distribute the imports that it is necessary to import through a national company rather than through the present multi-national system which has fallen down and proved to be a complete disaster.

The second paragraph of the agreements states:

Determined to take common effective measures to meet oil supply emergencies by developing an emergency self-sufficiency in oil supplies, restraining demand and allocating available oil among their countries on an equitable basis,

Is the Minister seriously suggesting that by signing an international agreement it will be honoured in the event of an oil crisis similar to that experienced in 1973? I would remind the Minister of the problems of some of our EEC partners when they were boycotted by the Arab exporters after the October War. Is he seriously suggesting that we should hand over our natural resources to outside control to be shared if an emergency faces those countries and then find that we are not able to enjoy reciprocal arrangements if the problem hits us?

In the last few weeks on the international level many verbal and written agreements have been dishonoured. Agreements were solemnly signed in Paris not long ago but now countries have been overrun despite the agreements. I do not want to use the word "dishonour"—it is a bit strong—but these are the same countries who have found themselves unable to fulfil solemn promises given because of domestic political pressure. Does the Minister not think if the same situation arose with regard to an oil shortage that these same governments would not make similar decisions? I do not think he is seriously suggesting that we have a greater hold over these governments than had nations in which they had invested billions of dollars. I am convinced that if there was pressure on the domestic scene in their own countries the governments concerned would drop this agreement like a hot potato if it did not suit them.

Why is this agreement being proposed in the first place? The Minister is merely going along with something that has come from Big Brother. The reason for the agreement and for the fact that Ireland has been named is because we are a potential source of energy, now recognised on an international level, to be explored and exploited. However, now is not the time to hand over our potential resources to the multi-nationals, as is suggested in the Minister's proposal.

Paragraph 3 of the agreement reads:

Desiring to promote co-operative relations with oil producing countries and with other oil consuming countries, including those of the developing world, through a purposeful dialogue, as well as through other forms of co-operation, to further the opportunities for a better understanding between consumer and producer countries.

That reads well but we need go back no longer than one week to the recent attempt to hold a conference in Paris between the exporting and importing countries. Where was international agreement and mutual understanding then? It was not even possible for both sides to agree on an agenda for debate. It is fine to talk about promoting co-operative relations with oil-producing countries and other oil consuming countries but it does not work out in practice and only a week ago this was proved. The producers and the consumers—mainly the EEC countries and the United States—came together in Paris to attempt to work out what is included in the paragraph of the agreement but they could not even agree on a basic agenda. Members of the Oireachtas who may be involved in outside organisations know that even though there may be disagreements at least it is possible to work out an agenda. Unfortunately this was not what happened in Paris.

In the teeth of all that happened in the last few weeks, the Minister is pushing for acceptance by the House of the agreement. Instead of helping the Minister is exacerbating the situation and I hope he will have the wisdom to withdraw this agreement.

Paragraph 5 of the agreement reads:

Desiring to play a more active role in relation to the oil industry by establishing a comprehensive international information system and a permanent framework for consultation with oil companies.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

I was quoting from paragraph five on page one of the proposed agreement:

Mindful of the interests of other oil consuming countries, including those of the developing world.

Desiring to play a more active role in relation to the oil industry by establishing a comprehensive international information system and a permanent framework for consultation with oil companies.

If ever there was a paragraph designed at the behest of the multi-national oil companies this must be a classical example. If any sovereign government were to take the initiative and establish their own oil company for exploration and exploitation and if that company were to be successful, in case these multi-national companies missed out on securing this information, we have here at the suggestion of the Minister for Transport and Power a motion to accept an agreement to hand over information to these multi-national bodies so that they could have a cut of the action. I suggest that whichever portion of this agreement should be excluded this paragraph is one because by it we would be forced within three months to hand over knowledge acquired by us in difficult and trying circumstances at the request of any other country.

We know that three countries control 90 per cent of the multi-national organisations and in case any countries have the gall to break away from the multi-nationals, the Minister is suggesting that we should hand over any information we may acquire to the multi-nationals, and no country could break away from the iron grip of the multi-nationals.

I should like to know what the Labour Party think about this section of the proposed agreement. We hear a lot of talk from the various spokesmen of the Labour Party, of the various wings of that party, of the various wings within wings of the Labour Party, against multi-national control. I assume that if the Minister proceeds with this motion and if there is a vote on it, the Labour Deputies will follow him into the lobby because I do not believe they would bring down the Government on this issue. They will be in absolute contradiction of everything they preach about multi-national control because by this paragraph of this agreement we are to hand over to the multi-nationals any hard-won knowledge we may gain of resources around our shores or under our soil, and we must hand this over within three months. Even if we have only a whisper of the likelihood of an oil find, according to this agreement we must within a very limited time hand over the full details to the US or any other country that controls the multi-nationals.

May we assume that the Labour Party will follow the very wise lead given by Fianna Fáil on this agreement, that it be rejected, as the French Government did, having looked at it? We come on to page two of the proposed agreement:

Determined to reduce their dependence on imported oil by undertaking long term co-operative efforts on conservation of energy, on accelerated development of alternative sources of energy, on research and development in the energy field and on uranium enrichment,

The clause states:

Considering the special responsibility of governments for energy supply.

These two sentences are linked. If one takes the last one, the special responsibility of Governments for energy supply, the record of this Government is without doubt the most appalling in the history of the State. They have a special responsibility to find energy supplies but what have we had? We have had the Minister for Industry and Commerce, a Labour Minister, coming before the House and promising that he would make a decision on oil, oil companies and so on, sometime before Christmas but, as the newspapers said, he did not say which Christmas.

This happened at a time when the Minister for Transport and Power was asking us in this House to ratify an agreement committing us to find alternative energy supplies. The Minister for Industry and Commerce by taking a simple decision could have got things moving. We are all aware that from geological tests that have been made there are indications that if the Minister would make the necessary decisions we could improve our chances of finding alternative energy sources. One Minister is asking us to ratify an agreement saying we have a responsibility to find energy sources and another Minister is sitting on the matter and refusing to make any decision.

The present costs of petrol and oil are exorbitant. Part of the costs, of course, is outside the control of the Government, but much of it is within the control of the Government. I would remind the House of the scene here just before Christmas when the Minister for Finance brought before us a measure which slapped on nearly £30 million of taxation in one night without even the courtesy of a vote. Because of the increase in the cost of oil many of the other forms of power which up to now appeared to be too expensive should be examined. The Minister should reject this agreement and set up our own energy board to examine some of the proposals which should have been examined before now. The Minister, having been in power for two years when this problem arose, should have been in the lead so far as finding alternative energy sources was concerned. We have had promises and talk from the Minister but very little action. Our national fuel bill is increasing at a massive rate.

What action has the Minister taken in the sphere of atomic energy? Does he think that because we have used oil and petrol up to now we cannot use anything else, or does he find himself in the situation in which the Minister for Health was this evening of thinking that an idea is a good one but having to vote against it because the money is not available, but of course not admitting that the money is not available?

I would ask the Minister to proceed rapidly with the examination of alternative sources of energy such as atomic energy, solar energy— although we have very little of that in this country—and energy provided by wind. I am not suggesting this on a national basis but surely there are villages and towns that could, with modern techniques, be harnessing the wind or solar power for conversion into energy. As an island nation there is also the possibility for us of tidal power. I am not saying this would be the overall solution but it is something that could be examined. As far as I know, no such examinations are taking place.

Surely in the light of the price increases that have taken place in the case of oil, both at international and domestic level, the Minister for Transport and Power has a responsibility to examine all alternative sources of supply. Surely they could go some way towards solving the problem on a local basis, and every little helps. There is also the question of conservation of energy which would include the proper insulation of houses, the proper use of the energy that is being expended. Some of the alternative sources may seem revolutionary but it is always wise to examine all the possibilities.

We have one alternative source of energy, turf, which has been used by Bord na Móna to generate electricity. They have reached their borrowing limit. The Minister promised to introduce a Bill to extend the borrowing power of Bord na Móna. We have heard the promise but we have not seen the Bill. All the development under the control of Bord na Móna which would be of benefit to the country is at a standstill while we await the introduction of a Bill by the Minister.

That matter will have to wait for another day.

I accept your ruling but Bord na Móna are involved in the production of turf and the generation of energy.

The Deputy has been allowed to make a reference to it but it may not be debated at this stage. This is an international agreement.

It deals with the responsibility of Governments for energy supply. Our Government's responsibility for energy supply has been partially met in the past by the activities and operations of Bord na Móna. Through their inactivity the Government are allowing Bord na Móna to run down and they are not meeting their responsibilities. The Minister is trying to impose this agreement on us and we are rejecting it. I would ask him to meet his commitment and to improve the position of Bord na Móna.

This agreement is weighted in favour of the multi-national oil companies. It was designed by their Governments and most of them are Government controlled. Seeing their existing control of the international scene declining this is a last ditch attempt to shore up the position of the multi-national oil companies at the expense of independent nations such as Ireland. Since this motion was introduced in October or November, we have seen the respect some of those Governments have for international commitments when they are under domestic pressure. I hope the Minister will agree to withdraw this proposed agreement which would involve us with countries which have shown such total disregard for international agreements when it suited them.

I suggest that the agreement is totally contrary to the expressed views of one of the partners in the National Coalition, the Labour Party, who bleat about controls by multi-national companies. This compounds the felony. It offers control to the multi-nationals at the expense of our own country which is now recognised as having a potential so far as oil and other forms of energy are concerned. If ever there was a wrong time to enter into an agreement, if ever there was a wrong agreement to enter into, this is it. I would ask the Minister to withdraw this document and introduce legislation—which I am sure will have the backing of the Fianna Fáil Party—to control our resources for the benefit of the people of Ireland and not of the multi-nationals.

I oppose this motion. As reported in Volume 279, column 1927 of the Official Report of 17th April, 1975, Deputy Barrett said:

Since the oil crisis in October, 1973, it was only right that every effort should have been made at national and international level to solve this problem so vital to the economic life of oil-importing countries. We have had a number of debates on this problem in an effort to find some solution. The first step to deal with this on-going crisis should be taken at home...

It is farcical to ask us to accept this motion in view of the fact that the Government have no energy policy. The Government should present an energy policy to the House. We should know the exact resources which are available. Over the past number of years there have been a number of debates on the problem of oil finds and the problem of oil scarcity. Deputy Barrett also said:

At the time of the crisis it was admitted by the Minister for Transport and Power and the Minister for Industry and Commerce that we were completely in the hands of the multi-national oil companies.

Without an energy policy and without knowing the facts in relation to the resources available here, we are asked to put it on the line with these countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the USA. We can see at a glance that in France, one of our partners in the EEC, where they have made a proper and comprehensive study of the fuel situation and their own fuel prospects they have decided to opt out.

We should like to know what the position is in relation to Norway. It was specifically mentioned by the Minister. Speaking about the energy crisis at column 1920 of Volume 279 of the Official Report the Minister said:

It was in this context that the Washington Energy Conference took place in February, 1974. This conference, which was convened by the United States and attended by nine member states of the EEC, Canada, Japan and Norway...

Apparently Norway has some strange attachment to this particular grouping to which the Minister wants us to align ourselves. How are we to indicate the resources available here when we do not know what they are? What will we barter? Do we propose to align ourselves with the groups the Minister for Transport and Power and the Minister for Industry and Commerce said we are in the hands of, the multi-national companies?

Taking just three of the countries, the United States has a voting rate of 51, the Netherlands has a voting rate of five and Canada has a voting rate of eight. These three can outvote all the others. The Minister wants to force us into a situation of which he disapproved in a previous debate —it was undesirable to be in the hands of multi-national companies. As a result of this agreement we will be in a position in which three multi-nationals can dictate the terms. This is an undesirable situation. It cannot be tolerated. We cannot tolerate selling out to the multi-nationals.

We must know what we have to offer. Neither the Minister nor the Government know what we have. It has become apparent that we have resources and efforts are being made to find new sources of supply around our coast and throughout the country, with some success, but we have not got the whole picture. Until such time as we have the whole picture we cannot decide on an energy policy of our own. We must know what our needs are, what requirements we have, our production capacity and the availability of supply. It is farcical to have the Minister tell us we will align ourselves with these great nations, three of which can dictate the terms, when we do not know exactly what we have to offer. It may well be desirable for one reason or another to have some alignment in relation to an international energy policy, but there are certain questions which must be asked.

Japan's combined voting rate is 18 as against our rate of three. What has Japan to offer us? What contribution would Japan make to solving our problem? Japan is far removed from Europe. We may have more resources available than the Japanese have. How concerned, I wonder, are the Japanese about our problem? How concerned are the multi-nationals in the US about our problems, except to extract the last dollar from us.

Deputy Burke and others referred to the Dutch and the Canadians. We do not want another sell out. This is not a secret agreement but we had agreements in the past which were a sell out. We must examine this in great depth. In relation to the oil consuming voting rates, we have no voting rate and neither has Luxembourg. All the others have. We will be a little pebble in a big pool, dictated to by the multi-nationals. In the past these were regarded as highly undesirable people with whom to be associated by both the Minister for Transport and Power and the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Speaking at column 1927 of Volume 279 of the Official Report, Deputy Barrett said:

This is the situation in which we still find ourselves, and it is not a very pleasant one. Our economy is virtually controlled by these multi-nationals who are pretty ruthless. We should take steps to get out from under the umbrella of these multi-national concerns. There is no evidence of effective action being taken in this regard and we are as subject to the whims of the boards of these companies as we were in October, 1973... I cannot see anything in this agreement which will release us from this control by these oil companies. We should recognise that oil supplies are not scarce; what affects us is the control of the supplies and their cost.

Deputy Barrett dealt in great depth with costs and supplies.

The Minister must be serious about every single page of this 108-page agreement, but we must extract additional information now from the Minister. For instance, what will be the relationship of Norway to the group? The French have not aligned themselves. Why? We must know the answers if we are to assess the situation factually and effectively. Where Norway is concerned, is there a loose arrangement, a definite arrangement, or no arrangement at all? Is it a tight arrangement? The House demands the answers to these questions. We can assess the situation in relation to the US, the UK, Turkey, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Germany, Canada, Belgium and Austria. What is the arrangement where Norway is concerned? The Minister should be able to give us that information. If the Minister is withholding information that is a very serious matter. The conference was convened by the US and attended by the nine member states of the EEC, including Ireland.

The representative from Ireland must be aware of the Norwegian situation and the point of view put forward by that country. Could we have that so that we can assess it fully? I can understand the situation if the Minister says he has not the information available. I assume he has it but does not want to convey to the House the full facts in relation to the conference held in February, 1974. I suppose there is no way of extracting information from the Minister now if he does not want us to have it. We have no information other than that contained in this document.

We could deal with this document in relation to the sections which affect us most or we could deal with it page by page. I do not mind what way we deal with it. We can deal with it page by page and ask the Minister to reply to the various questions we raise. It will be much better if the Minister disposes of the questions as we go along. The Minister did not tell us about Norway. Perhaps he was not at the conference at all or he was not fully briefed. If he was there he must have reported back.

He was mitching.

At least we have got a contribution from the Minister. I would not send mitchers abroad to an important conference like this. The people we send abroad should bring us back factual information. Can the Minister tell us if Norway have any tie-up with this group?

The Deputy may make any points he likes and I will answer them in my winding-up speech.

I will not have an opportunity of answering the Minister and I want to assess the situation fully as I go along in order to analyse the voting structure. We must make up our minds, first of all, if we are to be little fish in the big pond or if there will be outside influences, such as the Norwegians. Can the Minister tell us what the point of view of the French is, because it is not in the document we received? We are just told that France will not participate. We want to know why France is not aligned with this group?

We have an alignment with France in the EEC. I assume, as Deputy Barrett stated, that France made a comprehensive study of the energy situation in relation to her own country and the availability of resources, old and new. I am sure France considered the situation in the widest possible way and as a result has opted out. Is that the factual situation? The person who attended the conference in Washington must have brought back that information and it would be of great help to us in the further consideration that will take place.

We would like to know exactly why one of our partners in the EEC opted out of this agreement. This may become a compelling factor in deciding if we should opt out. All available information should be presented to the House in a matter such as this. During the course of the discussion Deputies should be fed with the information they require. It could happen that many of the other countries, Denmark, Belgium or Austria, might have the same problem we have. They may be discussing it in their parliaments at the moment. If that is the case I am sure they are asking the same questions. The Minister assumes all those countries will sign. The Japanese will tell the Italians, the Italians will tell the Germans, the Germans will tell the Swedes to watch Ireland. What has Japan to offer us?

The Deputy is repeating himself. He has adverted to the same thing many times.

I have not been able to assess the situation because of the lack of information in the Minister's brief, the lack of information in relation to the voting pattern or the reason why some of our colleagues in the EEC pulled out. We could proceed if we got that information.

I want to disabuse the Deputy of the notion that debate may proceed by way of question and answer or interrogation across the floor. That would not be in order. The Deputy will make his contribution and the Minister will reply in due course.

The information supplied in the Minister's brief is completely inadequate to deal with a matter of such importance as this motion. The Chair must be aware that this is one of the most important decisions we have to make, being tied up with and sold out to the multi-nationals. The Minister's brief should have been comprehensive and given us a clear and concise view of what happened at the all-important conference. I think it was the Minister for Foreign Affairs who attended that conference. Perhaps the Government are in the same position as the Opposition Deputies, that they do not know what it is all about or cannot assess it fully. In relation to the non-availability of information about France and Norway the Minister has said he will tell us at the end of the debate, but that is not much help to people who want to make contributions. We will certainly not sell out to the multi-nationals. It has been pointed out that three of this group can decide by their votes what decision will be taken.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy again but he has said all that before.

There are three voting weights here.

I have given the Deputy a lot of latitude but he is repeating himself persistently.

I have not dealt with the general voting weights. I spoke about the combined voting weights. On the general voting weights we have three votes but when it comes to the combined voting weights we still have only three while the US, who have only three in the general voting weights, have 51 in the combined voting rates. The Netherlands have five as against three and Canada have eight as against three. We are on a par with Luxembourg, a country with a population of 200,000 compared with our population of 3,500,000. There is something wrong there. It is obvious that someone was mitching.

I do not know how one can sensibly deal with this because we do not know how the other countries will assist or what their requirements will be. We have no energy policy of our own but we are trying to solve the energy problems of the world, a most amazing situation. One of our Ministers went to Washington and discussed in detail the energy problems of almost the entire globe in spite of the fact that we have no energy policy. Without an energy policy of our own, it is difficult for us to help in dealing with the problems of the world. Apparently our Government work in reverse. They deal with the big problem first on the basis that the big fellows will solve our problem. The country was sold out on a previous occasion and we cannot allow it to be sold out on this occasion.

Article 25 of the agreement states:

The system shall be operated on a permanent basis, both under normal conditions and during emergencies, and in a manner which ensures the confidentiality of the information made available.

To whom will this information be made available? The information would not be very confidential if it was made available to all these countries. This is another joke. Now we have the situation that the Minister does not know, and his colleague, on his return from Washington, did not tell him. I sympathise with the Minister on being sent into this House to pilot this motion through without being briefed by the Minister who went to Washington. It is unfair to expect this Minister to do that. The Minister who went to Washington should be present to answer the questions in relation to the agreement. If this is an open Government with collective responsibility, surely one Minister has nothing to hide from another. It is pathetic that this Minister was not supplied with any information by his colleague who attended the conference in Washington. On the basis that the Minister was not advised and that he is doing his best under difficult circumstances I will be lenient with him.

Last week Deputy Barrett pointed out that the US imports 20 per cent of its oil needs and produces 80 per cent. He pointed out that in an emergency the US could produce 100 per cent of its requirements. The Americans are aware of the amount of oil in the ground in their country. In my view the Americans will purchase oil from outside until those resources dry up and then they will have their own resources for many years to come. We have not been told what the other countries involved in this agreement have to offer us. The information will be confidential and we do not know whether Norway will be in or out. We do not know what assistance we will get from the Japanese. The Minister who went to Washington did not bring back any information; the Minister for Transport and Power is unable to give us information and the Minister for Industry and Commerce told us that we are in the hands of multi-nationals. We are being asked to vote ourselves fully into the hands of multi-nationals now and give our confidential information to every Tom, Dick and Harry across the globe.

Article 33 of the agreement states:

Under the special section, the participating countries shall, on a regular basis, make available to the secretariat information on the precise data identified in accordance with Article 34 on the following subjects:

(a) oil consumption and supply;

(b) demand restraint measures;

(c) levels of emergency supplies;

(d) availability and utilisation of transportation facilities;

The restraint measures and conservation programme have been in operation here for some time. We had an adjustment of the speed limits from 60 mph to 50 mph and back up to 60 mph again. That was to be our great effort to conserve energy. We also had the fellow on television burning the £1 note. We will be laughed out of this group if we participate. Nobody should attempt to join this group unless they have done their homework, something we have not done.

On emergency reserves the agreement states:

Total oil stocks are measured according to the OECD and EEC definitions, revised as follows:

A. Stocks included:

—in refinery tanks

—in pipeline tankage

— in bulk terminals.

Stocks excluded are:

—in pipelines

—in rail tank cars

—in truck tank cars

—in seagoing ships' bunkers

—in service stations and retail stores

— in tankers at sea.

I find it difficult to understand that article. "Emergency reserves" are mentioned also. Perhaps the Minister could tell us how one can define what constitutes stocks. If it is in pipeline tankage, that constitutes stocks of oil; if it is in the pipeline, it does not. If it is in rail tank cars, that does not constitute a stock of oil. If it is in barges, it does constitute a stock of oil. If it is in inter-coaster tankers it does constitute a stock of oil. If it is in tankers at sea, that does not constitute a stock of oil; if it is in storage tank bottoms it does constitute a stock of oil.

Perhaps the Minister could explain those definitions to us so that we would have a better understanding of what is and is not stock in relation to this agreement, because it is important to know exactly what we are speaking about. To my mind stocks would be those held in rail tank cars, or in truck tank cars, seagoing ships, service stations and retail stores but those are excluded. I think Deputy Barrett dealt with that problem on many occasions. On the many occasions on which he spoke in this House he dealt with the problem of the price increases and the amount of money the Government allowed the oil companies to accumulate. Perhaps I might be allowed quote from his speech in this House on Thursday, 17th April, 1975, at column 1931 as follows:

Multi-nationals go on publishing and bragging about their huge profits. One company brags about 175 million stock profits in the past year. We form part of these stock profits and we permit that to happen. Attaching ourselves to the outer UK zone has been a disaster since December, 1973, and it seems as if it will continue.

The Minister is aware that an oil company need give only seven days' notice and then can increase the price of petrol. There is not the same type of restriction applicable to an increase in the price of fuel as to the price of other commodities. These multi-nationals can do what they like. So long as they give the Minister seven days' notice they can shove up the digits on the petrol pumps. This is an unsatisfactory situation and one with which Deputy Barrett dealt in depth.

I shall not prolong discussion on that aspect—where tanks or bunkers were full; where, in some cases filling stations were full; where oil terminals had plenty of fuel and prices were increased with a colossal return of revenue to the oil companies, those multi-nationals spoken about in such harsh terms by many Government Ministers in the not too distant past. They must have had a good time with them in Washington on that occasion because they seem now to be completely taken over by them and persuaded that it is their best interests to be associated with the multi-nationals who will soak and fleece them, and this nation, as far as they can. We feel that is an undesirable situation which should not be allowed develop.

Of course there are sources of energy other than crude oil or petrol. Indeed, if we consider the natural gas finds off Kinsale it is estimated that that particular find will give a 30 year supply to the mainland, anyway somewhere in that region. If I am incorrect the Minister can correct me on that score. I would hope we would not have to share that find with the Japanese. I would hope that the citizens of this city and the Dublin Gas Company—the largest gas consumers in the country—would have available to them the natural gas found in the Kinsale strike and that we would not have to share our valuable assets with the Japanese, the Turks, or others. I hope we will have a 30 year period of constant supply for the housewives of this country who are prepared to use natural gas. At least we have gone some of the way. We know now we have some natural gas available, probably some petroleum available, and that we have other sources of energy.

The question of solid fuel was mentioned by Deputy R. P. Burke and indeed by others in the course of the debate. We have the availability of our own resources at all times to the ESB and Bord na Móna. Deputy R. P. Burke dealt with Bord na Móna in some depth, and indeed the gas company is also involved here. We can observe the development of energy and power throughout the country. Those of us who went to Turlough Hill to see the great engineering feat there, the additional sources of energy pumped into the system, designed and developed by Irish engineers and workmen, will be very aware of such progress. Such progress must be continued, ensuring that we can meet our domestic needs. As is known now, there are sources beneath the earth. There arises also the question of the production of peat by Bord na Móna, who have done a wonderful job.

Are we to share such resources with the Japanese? Will they be taking the briquettes out of our fires next? Are we to share such with the Turks? How are we to divide them up? The Minister has not given us any indication how the divisions will be effected. What will be the position of each of those countries, other than what is contained in this huge document of 108 pages and the Minister's brief of eight-and-a-half pages, which gives us no information whatever.

We cannot leave ourselves vulnerable to outside sources, supplying them with information in respect of our affairs. Tomorrow or the day after such people may be participating in one conflict or another and be fully conversant, on a confidential basis, with the location of our oil wells, or the supplies we may have of natural gas or oil. In a situation like that how long would such supplies last? We must not sell out our resources on this occasion. We must adopt a positive policy in relation to energy and fuel. We must know exactly what are our resources, where we are going and what we will do. Only after such assessment can we decide on an alignment. When we have all the facts accumulated we can ascertain whether or not we have resources we want to share or do not want to share. It is unfortunate that such information is not available to us at present. The Minister is aware also that the necessary exploratory work has not been done in order to ascertain the resources available on the Continental Shelf or, indeed, on the mainland. We know of some. Therefore, we have quite an amount of homework to do before entering into the international field and selling out all our information to foreign powers.

Conservation of energy is very important as was mentioned in Article 42 of the energy document. As I pointed out, our contribution has been the alteration of the speed limit and the burning of the £. As the Minister mentioned, the television programme was very impressive. I wonder what would other countries think of that as a conservation programme and that is the only positive step this Government have taken. They have now changed their minds. The Minister for Local Government changed his mind with the alteration of the clock—the clockwork Minister. He changed the speed limit with the hour. On one occasion he told us this was to conserve fuel and energy. If we cannot show a positive policy for conserving energy the people with whom we are going to align ourselves will be disappointed or misled by the man who went to Washington.

An alternative source of energy is coal. We have coalfields here. A re-examination of this situation should take place in the light of prevailing circumstances, such as high fuel costs. This document stresses fuel and crude oil as sources of energy but we should have an examination made of alternative sources. We should have a positive energy policy towards the development of our coalfields, be they big or small. We will need whatever sources of energy are in the ground. Until such time as this assessment is carried out, there is no point in aligning ourselves with people who have done their homework, such as the Canadians, the Germans and the Italians. They are further advanced than we are. They do not burn pound notes. They do not change their speed limits. They have positive policies. They are in this for what they can get, not for what they can give.

Nuclear energy and hydro-electric power were mentioned. Have we done enough or can we do more to stimulate these sources of energy? I am sure we can. Turlough Hill has been acknowledged as a masterpiece of Irish workers and technicians by people from all over the world. It is continuously inspected by people from other countries who are amazed. We can have further developments of this type with the natural resource available—water, and we have plenty of that.

The exchange of technical information has been and should be free-flowing. Apparently we are as up to date as other countries in that sphere. There is a continual updating of on-going programmes to keep abreast with other countries. We can do this without tying ourselves to the vast number of countries mentioned on page 79, Article 62, of the Energy Programme.

Energy research and development must be an on-going subject and the Government should be participating in energy research so that we can formulate an energy policy. When the Government have an energy policy, they should come back and tell us that they are aware of the resources available, know our projected needs and wants over the next 25 years and know what they can give and gain from entering into this situation. If that research is not done, the Minister is going into this situation blindfolded. Will the Government then bulldoze their way through the Division Lobbies or will there be some kind of sanity in relation to the sell-out to the multi-nationals?

I hope solar energy will be examined and developed here. It was perfected in other countries. Some years ago we visited housing estates in Jerusalem and saw this system effectively applied. We were told that the amount of sun required is not very great and we would have a source of energy here which at present is untapped.

Have we examined nuclear power in depth or was there just a haphazard development with information supplied by the multi-nationals or outside sources? That information I am sure will not be made available to us but will be retained by outsiders because while the project will be here, it will be serviced and maintained to the financial advantage of the people who gave us the ideas.

Have we a policy dealing with waste heat? Have we a policy dealing with the housing programme? Have we issued any instructions about the heating and insulation of homes? All this is part of an energy programme which must and should be presented to this House. Have we examined municipal and industrial waste utilisation for energy conservation? Can we examine some of the problems outlined in this document against our own situation and say that we are very far behind? Can we say that we got inspiration from this document? Can we avail of the information contained in the document to draw up a positive energy programme?

The overall energy system must be analysed, whether it is heat, wastage, conservation or whatever the Minister might like to call it. When we have a positive policy, when the Government indicate that they have a comprehensive policy covering all aspects, when we know all our needs and the availability of produce here, then at the stage let them tell us what they are putting on the line.

At the moment there are only vague references to the availability of gas at Kinsale. It is believed there will be a 30-year supply there. There may be more finds in the future. Is our energy to be sapped away by other countries who leave their own resources in the ground until such time as ours are exhausted? Is that why they want confidential information? I am quite confident they will not fully expose their position as we are exposing ours day by day in relation to available resources. I am rather sad that the Minister has not been able to give us information on the matters on which we pressed him but, again, it is probably not his fault.

The cost factor enters into this motion. What will be the cost of our participation, the cost of buildings for the 90 days' supply? I hope the Minister will be able to enlighten us in some way because the information conveyed in the 8-page documentation that is already there is very scant. I hope the Minister will also be able to enlighten us about the sell-out to the multi-nationals; that he will be able to tell us why France is not participating; that he will be able to tell us what the Norwegian situation is, whether they have a loose arrangement; that he will be able to tell us what Japan has to offer and what we have to offer Japan. Again, I am sorry the Minister has not presented the necessary information and that his colleague who went to Washington did not bring back a full and factual brief so that the Members of this House could be informed in the course of the discussion on this very important matter.

I hope this motion will not be carried, that we will not sign away our rights, that we will not sell ourselves out to the multi-nationals. I hope we shall have an assessment of our own resources, and after we have calculated our own needs and the availability of fuel of one type or another and the volume in which it is available, that we shall then be able to make up our minds as to the advantage or disadvantage of aligning ourselves with any group of this magnitude.

The main reason I have chosen to intervene in this debate is an unsigned article in last week's Sunday Independent, and I shall come back to that in a short while.

Having read the Minister's brief a couple of times, I have come to the conclusion that the Minister is like a mythical cattle thief called Cacus who used to drag cattle into his caravan by their tails so that he could not be detected. Indeed, the Minister, in his motion before us, and the Government as a whole, have successfully turned wine into water.

I think it must be accepted that the international agencies are dominated by the United States of America and this, as Deputy Dowling and Deputy Barrett said, should give us very serious cause for concern. It is now absolutely clear that the multi-nationals are dominating the Legislature of the USA. It was a depressing thing to listen to the Minister for Industry and Commerce at the last Labour Conference saying there was nothing he could do about it, when we all know this to be untrue. If the ESB could make private arrangements with the Russians without having to concern themselves with the multi-nationals, the Government of this sovereign State could make whatever arrangements suit them and suit our people without having to knuckle under to any group of business organisations.

I should like to go back a little to indicate how we attracted people to explore for such things as oil and gas off our coasts. It was my father who was Minister for Industry and Commerce when the arrangements were made with Ambassador Oil. He was told at school and by other prominent persons that there was no oil, gas or minerals around our island. With this traditional record of lack of natural resources, I think it was a correct decision to encourage somebody to invest vast sums of money to find out whether there was oil where everybody said there was no oil, to make it as attractive as possible for them to do this work which the State could not afford to do, had not got the technological ability to do, and which Irish industry was not prepared to take up.

It will also be remembered the difficulty there was in having an oil refinery established here. The one refinery we have, which can produce up to 50 per cent of our capacity, was opened by the late William Norton when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is regrettable to see the capacity of that oil refinery being run down when it should be obvious to everybody, especially since the oil crisis arose in 1973, that what we need now is not running down our existing refining capacity but the creation of new oil refinery capacity.

The Minister referred to a fourfold increase in the price of crude oil, but in relation to aviation spirit, motor car petrol or other by-products the cost of the crude oil is the very smallest part of the total cost of producing these commodities. I am aware, from personal contacts, that many of the oil-producing countries —perhaps I should describe them as previous colonial countries—knowing our history, have a great deal of goodwill towards this country and that if they have English pounds to spend, they would prefer to spend them here rather than in the UK or in France. Therefore, we are in a situation where oil companies have been discouraged from setting up refineries here. I know of one company who intended building a refinery on the Shannon estuary to refine oil for home and English consumption. These people, because of our deep water situation, were very interested in setting up refining plants and also downstream petrochemical plants. I understand there is plenty of money in refining so far as the promoter is concerned but that downstream industry is the most valuable to a country because of the employment it provides. These refineries were proposed for the south west, the north west and for Dublin Bay. In one case the company had arranged international finance and had begun taking options on land for the erection of a complex based on a refinery. However, the Government by changing their minds on the tax concession legislation which would have made such projects viable, caused this money to be shifted to Canada where the company concerned are in the process of building a refinery.

We find that Canada and the US are parties to this international energy programme. In this regard I would liken them to the ITGWU and the WUI here, two unions that operate together in a particular way and the decisions of which are unlikely to be reversed by many other but smaller unions throughout the country. We are now giving away control of our natural resources and in the process are paying £7,000 in order to do so.

Another very serious matter in this situation is that OPEC are not very friendly with the US but because the US are the major participants in this agreement we may find that every signatory to the agreement will be cut off should the Americans annoy the oil-producing countries. It appears that either this possibility has not occurred to the Government or that the motion is before the House now in preparation for the Minister for Finance's journey to Washington to try to raise some money. If this is a measure to help out at a time of a shortage of finance, that is, to give away longterm prospects such as we have off our coasts and under the ground, it is very shortsighted, one-day only politics. The water may be turned to wine now but the wine will be well and truly sour as a result of the acceptance of a motion of this kind.

Another matter which is relevant to the question of energy is a decision taken by the ESB to create nuclear energy in order to conserve our oil supplies but the Minister decided that he would not trust the ESB to do this and he set up a committee to look into the matter. During the term of office of the previous Government there were times when I was pressing to have some action taken in some area only to be told that a committee was being set up and would report. I took such information as meaning that the Government of the day had decided to do nothing for the time being. In the context of what we are talking about here, the Government are putting back this source of nuclear energy indefinitely. There is no shortage of oil but that is not to say that the Minister should not expedite the development of a nuclear energy plant.

I ask the Minister to consider carefully the question as to why France has not signed this agreement. The reason for this would seem to be that France has available crude oil and has a refining capacity. On a previous occasion I heard Deputy Barrett suggest that even if we have not a refinery now, that if we must wait three years to have one constructed, that would be assuming the project would be started immediately, it would be possible to negotiate supplies of crude oil and to have them refined in France, that in this way very large savings would result to our balance of payments situation and cheaper petrol would be available to our people.

I do not know how any Minister of this small country could agree to a majority decision situation such as is provided for here. I know there is provision for our opting out should we so wish but we should not have gone in in the beginning. The Minister wishes to have this motion through the House by the 1st May but I expect that if he has not got it by then we will be faced with the usual closure motion and the jackboot tactics to which we have become accustomed from this Government.

The Minister referred to the scheme he had for restraining energy demands. Is he aware that when the people co-operated to reduce the demand, the Minister for Industry and Commerce received a demand for increased prices because the growth rate projected by the companies involved was not adequate? My electricity bill, for example, which amounted to about £25 every two months amounts now to £40 per month although no more electricity is being consumed in the house than was the case previously. Therefore, the position is that if we conserve energy we find that because the expansion rate of the people involved in the business does not grow to the extent the management would wish, the prices are increased. There is not much sense in a policy of that kind. The profits made by the multi-nationals and which I have described already as an international scandal have soared beyond imagination. I suggest that he should forget about this and go France's way and then have a word with the Minister for Industry and Commerce and get him to make up his mind as to how we will start exploration and development on our own oil resources. It seems crazy to sign an agreement like this when we may soon be an oil-exporting nation—certainly an oil-producing one and I am sure we can produce more than we need for the home market. I do not know if it is the Minister for Transport and Power who is preventing the Minister for Industry and Commerce from making up his mind or whether the Minister is incapable of making up his mind but there is certainly something wrong and it is time that the Government sorted it out.

The Minister said it was planned to establish a common minimum price level below which they would not allow imported oil to be sold within their economy. Now we are back to this seven days' notice again. It seems to me that the multi-nationals will just say to their companies: "We have them all sewn up. We have the majority vote under the energy agreement. We will tell them to put up their petrol or oil 10p or 20p." There is nothing we can do about it as it now stands.

I do not intend to delay the House but I should like to have it clearly on record that if anyone examines the situation at the time they will find that the invitation to the Ambassador Oil Company to come to this country was a very good move and will be a very profitable decision.

It is ironic and something of a sick joke that tonight we should be discussing this proposed agreement on energy and power when the country is almost immobilised for lack of petrol supplies. While it may not be relevant, I think it should go forth from this House that we make a plea to both sides in this dispute to come together and end it.

Has this agreement been examined to see if it is a good agreement? Is it in our interests that we should sign it? Are the Government, by their policy, keeping to the terms of the agreement? I believe I can say truthfully that the Government are breaking this agreement before it is signed and I charge the Government with having no energy policy. If you take the Government decision on the distribution of natural gas, whether off Kinsale or elsewhere, if the Government had been serious they would have examined how that gas could be converted into power. Any policy that results in a 60 per cent loss on conversion of every gallon is not a good policy and you are not conserving energy. Our EEC partners will have much to say when they come to examine the puerile attempt we have made at a policy on natural resources. The Government have not given sufficient thought to the use of our existing resources. Their only way of trying to cut down on wages is to increase the price of the commodity to the user. The Minister for Finance on two occasions has used the weapon of higher prices rather than try to work out some intelligent plan to reduce waste and conserve supplies.

It may be very good fiscal policy for the Minister to slap on any tax he likes on petrol or crude oil and when we cannot buy it he will say that he has cut down on our usage of oil. Even if we reduce on the amount we had been using the Minister will still do well with taxation. That is not good planning. One must despair of Government thinking nowadays. They should be developing our natural resources. If the ESB had been given sufficient money and the go-ahead to generate sufficient electricity so that we could have electric trains or trams as we had in this city and as they have in other cities, the situation could have been better. People will say that the ESB use oil to generate electricity but they also use turf and coal. Have we fully exhausted the possibilities of hydro-schemes? Have the ESB tackled the possibility of harnessing tidal power as other countries have done? Have we sufficiently used our coalmines which now lie derelict and from which hundreds of workers have been sacked? In the last oil crisis, when the producer countries stepped up the price, we fell over ourselves to meet their increases but yet we allowed coalmines to close because we said it was uneconomic to operate them. We allowed men to become unemployed but if we had spent a fraction of the money spent on importing oil we could have mined coal and kept miners in gainful employment in their own areas.

This agreement says that it shall be the duty of each country to try to conserve supplies. I am not speaking yet of the possibility of exploiting whatever resources we find in our seas or underground. Perhaps our educational system is at fault because when I was much younger we were always told that we had no resources, that it was not worth trying to find anything because this had already been done and there was no mineral such as zinc and certainly no oil and the coal was not suitable for burning in Irish grates. If it has taken the oil crisis to bring us to our senses, perhaps we have gained something from it. Because an oil company has told us that we have natural gas or oil off our southern coast we are quite satisfied with this and happy that the supply is coming. I do not think any of that natural gas will be used outside the Cork area. I appreciate there are grave technical difficulties, that once an undersea well is tapped it is necessary to draw off the gas in a regular pattern. It cannot be turned on one day and turned off the next day. I accept that the Government will have the problem of ensuring that there is a market for the gas and that it is controlled so that the ESB and NET will have a regular supply.

What is wrong is that the Government have not used any imagination. If they did things properly they could open up a new area in the development of our resources. They are too timid, they have sat back and depended on outside advice. I admit that outsiders such as the United States and Britain have more expertise available to them than we have but, even allowing for that, the Government should come forward with a policy for the full development of all our resources.

With regard to the conservation of resources, as Deputy Dowling pointed out, the Government did three things, they reduced the speed limit on the roads; they carried out a publicity drive on television and in the papers asking people to conserve supplies and the Minister for Finance had the trump card, he put a heavy duty on petrol. I will not shed any tears over the fact that people who use their cars for leisure purposes have to pay extra for petrol, but the Minister did not consider what would be the result of his policy on employment.

We must face the fact that every tax imposed by a government means an increase in the distribution cost of commodities but in an age when we should be trying to reduce inflation to manageable proportions the Government, in their periodic budgets, are increasing the price of oil and petrol. They have told us the increases were not imposed to raise further taxation but because the EEC countries complained we were not doing sufficient to conserve our supplies and they pointed out we had the cheapest petrol in Europe. I do not know if that is true but the Government seized on this excuse without comparing our conditions with those obtaining in The Netherlands, Denmark and other member states of the EEC. We may have had fairly cheap petrol but these countries did not have our high rate of unemployment. Even today when the economy of the United Kingdom is tottering on the brink of disaster they will still have a much lower rate of unemployment than this country. In spite of this we are doing nothing to create more jobs. We are neglectful and prodigal with our resources and the number of unemployed increases daily. This week in my area two long-established Dublin firms will dismiss approximately 300 workers. One of the firms is engaged in the production of fuel.

All these matters have a bearing on the agreement we are discussing. It was drawn up by a number of countries, some in Europe and some outside. No doubt each country has its own difficulties but none is in such a bad position as Ireland. None has been so wasteful with regard to its resources. That is the fault of the Government. They have not shown enough energy or imagination to produce a policy that would use turf and coal. They have not considered how we might use our rivers, the tidal waters or even solar energy. They have not explored the possibility of using wind power on the west coast. In this connection I should like to commend the engineering school of UCG who are experimenting with controlled wind power. This is only a tiny effort by a far-seeing staff in UCG but no lead is coming from the Government.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Not alone are the Government remiss in not producing an energy policy——

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

One can see the lack of Government Deputies' interest in this.

None whatever.

It is synonomous of their whole policy on energy. They will not even take time to come into the House, so how can one expect an energy policy?

We might do better than the Gas Company.

If the Government gave more thought to energy and other policies we would not have 104,000 people unemployed. The smiles on the faces of Government Deputies at the mention of unemployment is indicative of their non-interest in the basic need of the country, employment for our people. I am sure there are smiles on the faces of the countries we are thinking of associating with in this agreement at our puny efforts in the fields of economics and energy.

The absence of Government Deputies is very significant. It is up to the Government to keep a quorum in the House.

There are only four Fianna Fáil Deputies.

It is an indication of their irresponsibility.

Who is making the speech?

I know I will be subjected to barracking until 10.30. How many speakers have the Government benches contributed?

They could not care less. In a democracy one must look to the Government for some kind of lead. If Government do not care, they should vacate their offices and let a Government that care occupy them.

We need intelligent policies on conservation and development of our resources. Goodness knows, our Ministers attend enough conferences in different parts of the world to learn something. They must have seen the dedication with which other peoples apply themselves to their problems. They should have brought to this House some serious policy on energy. Within a few days we will have the Estimate for Transport and Power and let us hope that it will contain something on the lines of an energy policy. I am not satisfied the Government have examined this proposed agreement sufficiently well to benefit us. We should not be satisfied with always being the sick man of Europe but the Government's attitude so far could well stamp us indelibly with that label in regard to an energy policy.

The Minister has been in that office for two years. I appreciate that in that time he has had to face some crucial problems but I am afraid that the restraining dead hand of the Cabinet has deterred his natural enthusiasm to do something. The Government have done practically nothing towards the preparation of a real energy policy. Last week the Minister announced the formation of a new fuel board purely as an interim measure. "Interim" is a nice name for a stop-gap policy. If the Government do not get down to examine our sources of oil and gas and turf and coal we will not solve any of our problems. We will have to put up with a rate of employment——

A 32 per cent rate of inflation.

I can foresee the Minister for Finance copying his British counterpart by coming in here with a policy of deflation. Or perhaps it is that the British Chancellor of the Exchequer has copied our methods. One would expect that a Government elected by the people would be prepared to explore every possible avenue so that our people could have employment, so that we could develop our resources and develop a proper society. They show a defeatist attitude in practically every sphere of endeavour but nowhere more so than in the field of energy. If the price of oil is increased again tomorrow, and it may well be because we have no control over the price of oil, what will we have done about finding a substitute for oil? Should we waste imported oil on purposes which could be served by the use of native fuel? Newspaper or television advertising could be used to educate people in the use of different fuels. If the Government do not do something in this regard one cannot blame the newspapers or television for not putting the matter across to the people. I do not think there has been much thinking done by the Government about the proper use of energy and the control, so far as is possible, of the price of oil. The use of oil can be cut down by ensuring that our natural resources are used to the limit. There are countries in Europe with less natural resources than we have but they have used them much more fully. The Government should send the Minister to those countries so that he can see what they have done in the field of generating power from natural resources.

For the next ten years or so I do not think we can be prodigal in the use of oil. We may have a surplus of oil if oil is discovered in the Celtic Sea and off our own east coast but until then oil will be a costly commodity. It has been made more costly by the Minister for Finance in his frantic search for revenue. It is like taxing the air we breathe when the Minister for Finance puts petrol and oil beyond the reach of most people. That is not a policy, it is an act of despair and an act of a lazy Government who will not take the trouble to learn from outside and even from our own history that we must use every sod of turf and ton of coal we have. In our universities there are engineers who could examine the possibility of the use of our rivers for the generation of electricity. Several times I have tabled questions about whether the ESB have examined the possibility of using tidal waters to generate electricity. Each time I have been told that nobody else has done it. This is not quite true. At least one country has.

Do we think that our coalmines must lie derelict because it is uneconomic to use them? Two years ago people would have said it was uneconomic to buy oil at present prices but we had to pay them. If our miners had demanded the price for their labour that the oil producing countries demanded we would not have given it but, in order to pay for oil, we had to borrow money and get it anywhere we could. Perhaps the Government have been stunned by this happening and that is why they have not enabled the Minister for Transport and Power to gather around him a technical staff to examine all alternative energy sources so as to make us as independent as possible. If the Polish people and the American people can mine their coal and send it here we should be able to develop our mines. Developments in the last two years have made it imperative to examine the possibility of using our mines. If the coal is unsuitable for the existing apparatus let us change the apparatus. Let us use the native talent of our engineers to produce a different type of boiler which will take this coal. I do not admit that our coal is unsuitable but, if people insist that it is, we cannot change our coal but we can change the apparatus in which to burn it. There are many families in this city who have been driven to desperation by the price of fuel and who would be glad to use Irish coal, turf or logs from our forests. I am sure the older people, if they were asked about this agreement, would say with derision: "Give us enough turf or coal to fill our grates." Those old people despair of ever again having proper fires. All this must be placed at the door of the Government. They have not worked out any policy to ensure a full utilisation of our resources. Nor have they spelled out clearly what our prospects are with regard to oil and natural gas. I know some agreements have been made. I hope that when we are discussing the Minister's Estimate we will go into this matter more fully.

People are losing hope every day that the Government will do something. If the Government even read this document and decide to avail of whatever knowledge is in it in the preparation of a policy, if they told the people: "We have produced this policy: it calls for courage on your part: if it is fully adopted it will make us as self-sufficient as possible"—the people would understand.

Debate adjourned.