That Dáil Éireann:
- the current geopolitical situation emphasises the imperative need to establish robust policies to develop our own energy supplies, including renewable energy sources;
- Ireland, like all other member states, is bound by European Union (EU) directives on energy regulation, meaning an obligation exists to plan and develop self-sufficiency options;
- currently Ireland is in an extremely vulnerable and utterly unsustainable position in terms of security of energy supply (dependent on the United Kingdom (UK)), with Brexit adding a further layer of uncertainty and risk, as the UK is no longer legally bound by any measure, including the solidarity principle in the 2020 agreement regulation, to provide us with supplies, thus significantly increasing Ireland's gas supply vulnerabilities;
- the Economic and Social Research Institute recently ranked Ireland as the fourth most energy insecure country in Europe;
- although we are at a critical juncture in planning for Ireland's energy future, the energy security review, promised in the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future in June 2020, has yet to even be published;
- Ireland has a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, however, the reality of the situation is that trains, tractors, trucks, trawlers, planes and the bulk of the existing car and van fleet run on oil;
- Ireland simply cannot become a green economy overnight, when 87 per cent of our energy supply still comes from fossil fuels;
- Ireland currently imports 100 per cent of our oil needs and over 70 per cent of our gas needs (interconnectors from Scotland to Ireland), with gas imports rising steadily in line with production declines at the Corrib gas field;
- dependence on gas imports has risen sharply from 33 per cent in 2017 to 72 per cent in 2021;
- currently 30 per cent of Ireland's gas needs come from the Corrib gas field, our only indigenous source, which will reach depletion by the decade's end;
- oil and gas will be required for decades to come and the Barryroe oil and gas field (in the Celtic Sea and discovered by Providence Resources) is Ireland's only indigenous oil discovery, which has the potential to be developed in the short-term;
- the large-scale offshore wind generation projects offer Ireland real potential but require proper planning and will take of euro and a medium- to long-term timeframe to develop, to ensure any actual or meaningful impact on decarbonisation;
- Ireland has the potential and options available to become almost entirely energy self-sufficient, which in the short-term means opening up the Barryroe supply and simultaneously getting serious about developing alternative renewable sources such as offshore wind;
- against this backdrop, and in light of the Government's failure, Ireland is facing an existential threat to the cost of food and energy, together with a complete lack of any energy security;
- all Irish consumers will face much higher fossil fuel prices following the EU leaders' agreement to ban most Russian oil imports;
- the Government has failed to address these seismic issues in any meaningful way that simultaneously reduces the cost burden and ensures a sustainable supply channel for both affordable food and energy into the future;
- this unprecedented energy crisis is compounded by the Government's policy position on energy, which is imprisoned by the single lane and oftentimes narrow ideological position of the Green Party;
- the Government's narrow ideological energy policy means closing down our own national resource supply of oil and gas, meaning we must import from anywhere that will supply us, at whatever price is dictated by exporters;
- in theory this policy approach may sound good or go down well at Green Party meetings, but it will send this country and our people down a dangerous energy eddy;
- the current Government policy ignores the fact that we will continue to need natural gas to anchor our entire electricity system for a long time to come;
- importing the necessary oil and gas will not only create a much larger carbon footprint, but it will also be costlier and leave us extremely vulnerable to supply and price shocks, while the monetary cost of importing oil represents a net loss to the Irish economy and the Exchequer; and
- the Government can no longer use this issue to virtue signal or purport their empty green credentials, as the consequences of doing so impacts the entire economy and especially every household, small business, farmer, and transport operator in a deeply negative and costly way;
further notes that:
- there is no justifiable case for not developing our own available oil and gas resources, and there is certainly no justifiable reason for this Government to stand over a current policy that adds to our carbon footprint, by importing gas from places like Qatar, which creates fourteen times the carbon footprint of using and developing the Corrib and Barryroe oil and gas resources;
- the hypocrisy-laden Government's energy policy, which turns a blind eye to importing from dictators on the one hand and aims to criminalise an Irish person who gives a bag of turf to a neighbour on the other, is affecting the nation's energy security and leaving Irish consumers to pay more than anyone else;
- today, despite the rhetoric, all of Ireland's oil and the vast majority of our gas is imported, and Ireland will continue to depend on oil products for the foreseeable future, or until the Government acts rather than speaks of increasing renewable supplies;
- the purely politically induced ban on Irish oil and gas represents a false narrative, as it generates a greater carbon footprint and ensures all Irish people pay more for electricity, gas, home-heating oil, petrol, and diesel and is seriously adding to our cost of living burden, while being devoid of any scientific or economic rationale;
- moving away from Russian supplies for both oil and gas at the EU level will have a detrimental impact, whether directly or indirectly, on supply to Ireland;
- the only practical solution is to reopen access to new supplies off our coast;-— the Government's decisions to close our turf-burning energy stations, further intending to close coal-burning stations too, will compound matters and result in a sole reliance on imports; and
- this current policy being pursued by this Government is leaving Ireland open to any and all international events of the future, which are well outside of our control and exposes not only households but our entire economy to price hikes that are completely outside of this country's control;
- that energy imports have a higher carbon footprint than local production;
- that Providence Resources unreservedly supports Government and EU policies aimed at tackling climate change;
- that the Barryroe production is not incompatible with Ireland's transition to a carbon neutral economy by 2050;
- that Providence Resources is confident that there is an attractive economic and technical case for first appraising and then developing the Barryroe oil and gas field;
- that an updated Competent Person's Report (CPR), delivered by RPS Energy Consultants (RPS), was completed at the beginning of February 2022, which confirms 81.2 MMstb of Gross 2C oil resources can be accessed through an initial two-phase development project, addressing one reservoir in the central segments of the field only, those closest to the 2012 oil discovery well;
- that a 2019 Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) report (when oil was $64 a barrel, it is $122 this week) estimated that one oil find off our coast would involve total expenditure of €16.25 billion, provide up to 1,200 jobs and €8.5 billion in production and corporation taxes;
- that the same PwC report estimated that over the project lifecycle of one gas field the expenditure would reach about €2.3 billion, provide 380 jobs and €2.42 billion in production and corporation taxes per annum;
- the enormous potential of Ireland becoming energy self-sufficient with the full optimisation of Barryroe, the largest undeveloped hydrocarbon field in Europe;
- that successful exploitation of the Barryroe oil and gas field would provide significant strategic and fiscal value to the Irish economy, at no cost to the Irish taxpayer;
- that indigenous energy sources create less environmental impact, compared to imports;
- that, all in all, developing our own energy resources is not only responsible but is also critical, bringing a raft of environmental, economic and security of supply benefits, while not doing so means we are in breach of EU energy directives and the prospect of exposure to heavy fines;
- that, following Brexit, Ireland is no longer compliant with the EU's requirements for energy security, according to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, as our gas import infrastructure currently runs through a "third country", and there is no legal obligation on the UK to consider Ireland's energy needs in the event of significant disruption; and
- that the current policies being adopted by this Government are taking the country and citizens down a dark tunnel, endangering our energy security; and
calls on the Government to:
- recognise that an urgent change in the trajectory of its energy policy is now desperately needed, as emissions associated with indigenous production can be up to 30 per cent lower than sources from outside Europe due to enhanced production technologies and shorter transport distances;
- explain the effect of current Irish Government policy which purports to protect the environment, when in fact it only increases our emissions by forcing Ireland to rely on the importation of all our gas and oil needs, at a time when EU gas and oil production is rapidly declining;
- ensure that Ireland is equipped with the policy options of developing, as transition energy supplies, its own oil and gas sources in the Celtic Sea at the Barryroe oil and gas field, where the accepted industry reserve projections indicate 365 million barrels of equivalent oil and gas resources;
- fully acknowledge that the Lease Undertaking is urgently required to allow Providence Resources to move forward with plans to drill an appraisal well at the Barryroe oil and gas field;
- sanction the natural follow-on from the Barryroe SEL 1/11 exploration licence, by providing Ministerial consent for the Lease Undertaking, since the Barryroe technical strategy is ready to be implemented within a short timeframe;
- ensure that the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, who has twice refused to engage with either Providence Resources or the Irish Offshore Operators Association, holds an urgent meeting with both organisations;
- explain why it has, to date, failed to provide the necessary Lease Undertaking to Providence Resources, which is required to realise the Barryroe oil and gas field's potential and the energy resource opportunity for Ireland, which will be lost if the Government continues on the current path;
- be honest and accept that continuing on the current energy path means the cost of living crisis in Ireland will only worsen, and when energy supplies are low admit that we are at the end of the pipeline and will likely be reduced to a trickle; and
- fully accept that the only logical route available is to detangle the current Government's mistaken energy policies and ensure the development of the Barryroe oil and gas, which after all is environmentally superior to what is being imported today and would harness the required energy security while reducing the costs for all Irish consumers.
On 21 March 2022, when on board the RV Mallet, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Ryan, gave an interview during which he made an extraordinary arrogant statement. This statement highlighted just how out of touch he and the party are with reality. He said that politicians demanding a renewed focus on fossil fuels as a solution to the energy crisis "need a lesson in energy economics". It is the Green Party and its coalition partners, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, that need more than one lesson in energy economics.
Last week, on an EU-wide comparable basis, Ireland's inflation rate was 8.2%, which is a 38-year high. Half the rate of inflation is due to energy alone. This is what people who get up early in the morning have to deal with as a result of the policies of this Government. In a recent submission to the Department of Finance, the Freight Transport Association of Ireland said fuel price increases of 50% are having a crippling effect on the freight industry. The same can be said for farmers, fishermen and all food producers. This all feeds in directly to massive price increases in everyday food items.
This is what economists call hyperinflation. Each year, we purchase approximately €8 billion of fossil fuels from other countries. This is the single largest transfer of national wealth out of our economy. It is a situation those of us in the real world know will continue for decades to come unless we develop our own fossil fuel resources. This is what economists call a balance of payments deficit.
The Minister of State has no difficulty with the fact that we import fossil fuels from other countries but he and his Green Party colleagues have an idiotic ideology that this is okay as long as we do not produce them ourselves. This is despite the fact that transporting these fossil fuel imports creates 14 times the carbon footprint of developing and consuming our own oil and gas resources. This is what economists refer to as greenwashing, and the outsourcing of some of our emissions is green hypocrisy. The Minister of State does not need a shorter shower. What he definitely needs, though, is a long cold shower to wake him up to the realities of the national energy crisis.
Each year, the Department of the Taoiseach prepares a national risk assessment. I would appreciate if the Minister of State would take interest in what we are saying. I know the Green Party has no interest in what is going on in the real world but I would appreciate if he would give me the courtesy in the nine minutes I have. Each year, the Department of the Taoiseach prepares a national risk assessment. In the 2021 assessment, which was signed off by the Taoiseach, energy security was one of the key risks identified. It highlighted the potential disruption to a secure and sustainable energy supply. It emphasised that it is vital that Ireland ensures affordable, sustainable and diverse energy supplies.
What the Minister of State, supported by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, is doing is the polar opposite. His and the Minister's Department is responsible for preparing a national energy security review. This should have been published by his Department three years ago. It was a cornerstone of the programme for Government, which all three Government parties signed up to two years ago. As of today, it still has not been published. Yet, on 6 June 2022, it was reported in a national newspaper that on 26 May 2022, the Department convened a meeting at the National Emergency Co-ordination Centre to discuss the oil emergency crisis. It was reported that among the matters discussed was a limit to be placed on all essential car travel and a strict limit on the volume of fuel a motorist could buy at any one time. Failure to have our national energy security review published is a dereliction of the Minister of State's duties and those of Deputy Ryan in his responsibilities as a Minister.
We import 70% of our natural gas requirements. While some of this is used to generate electricity, gas accounts for 21% of all primary energy consumed in Ireland. If anything were to happen to this supply of gas, not only would the lights go out, our economy would also be shut down overnight.
Natural gas is transmitted to Ireland through two pipelines, both of which originate from the same physical point of Moffat in Scotland. If there was an accident or explosion at the Moffat site, both pipelines would be out of commission and our economy would be brought to its knees. This is what the European Commission refers to as the N-1 formula.
The ESRI recently ranked Ireland as the fourth most energy insecure country in Europe. Our gas supplies come through Britain and while Britain was a member of the EU, it had an international legal obligation to ensure that we would have adequate gas supplies. This legal obligation no longer applies. In recent weeks, the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs have repeatedly accused Britain of bad faith attacks on the Northern Ireland protocol. They have also accused Britain of making no effort to resolve the protocol row and said the British Government is not listening to anyone and is on the brink of breaking international law. During the Brexit negotiations, the current British Home Secretary, Ms Priti Patel, made an appalling comment about using food shortages to pressure Ireland in the Brexit negotiations. These are the very people in whose hands we have placed our national energy security.
The Minister of State, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have been asleep at the helm as this energy hurricane is rapidly approaching. The Minister of State should wake up. Ireland is one of the few countries where the word "energy" does not appear in the name of any Department. This is itself demonstrates the lack of priority this Government places on a fundamental area of national security and prosperity. We are not climate deniers here. We are realists, not idealists. In an interview with Newstalk on 29 September 2021, the Minister, Deputy Ryan, said that Ireland will need fossil fuels going forward.
In The Irish Times of 18 May 2022, Muireann Lynch, a senior research officer at the ESRI, wrote a long and authoritative article entitled, "No point pretending we don’t need new sources of fossil fuels". The Minister must wake up and take time to read that article. In recent months, countries such as Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States have woken up to this fact and have started to explore their own fossil fuel resources. The Green Party is the only party that appears to think that we can migrate to a miracle renewable world overnight. The CSO has recently published an official statistic that fossil fuels provide 87% of all primary energy consumed in Ireland, yet the Minister and his convert, the Taoiseach, are placing all of their energy chips on the wind roulette. The Minister must wake up.
Week after week, leading people in the renewable industry come out and highlight the reality. Last week, the head of power generation at Bord na Móna said the Government was deluded if it believes 80% of the State’s power would come from renewables by 2030. In recent days, the managing director of Statkraft Ireland said Ireland is firefighting an energy crisis and was highly critical of an inadequate electricity infrastructure. The Minister must wake up.
The licence for the Barryroe field predates the prohibition of a new exploration licence. This is written in law and is an accepted principle in the programme for Government. Last year, the Minister granted Providence Resources, the owners of the Barryroe field, permission to undertake a site survey, which they completed. Since then, Providence Resources has written to the Minister on two occasions seeking a licence undertaking and has provided the Department with all the information requested. The Minister has not replied to either of those letters. One could assume from the approach that he is stonewalling the company to progress the Green Party agenda. If that is the case, it is in direct contravention of the code of conduct for office holders in which the Standards in Public Office Commission states that the public interest should always take precedence over the interests of a political party. If the Minister's strategy is to stonewall and frustrate the company, he is also exposing the State to a potential massive legal claim for interfering with the company’s legitimate property rights. This time the answer is not blowing in the wind, but it may lie in the shallow waters 50 km off the shore at Barryroe in the constituency that I am honoured to represent, where the people do get up early in the morning and do work extremely hard and live in the real world. I have the honour of being one of the elected representatives and I will do whatever I can to protect these people in the coming energy and food crisis. The Minister must wake up.