This is a significant issue of principle for the Irish political system and people. Where do we stand on climate action and what is our role in the world? The principle should be that we would keep four fifths of the known fossil fuels in the ground because that is what we know we have to do to try to maintain a safe climate. The work that 350 and other organisations have done over recent years has been significant in turning the whole environmental movement to realising that rather than putting the blame on the individual, the problem should be tackled at source. We should stop the exploration for oil and gas. That is a critical first step that we need to take. A young Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, recently made the point that we all have to pull the emergency brake, including in this country. It is irresponsible to continue with exploration for oil and gas in a world where we know that it will go into the atmosphere for 1,000 years as carbon, which threatens all our livelihoods.
While we have to look after people's security, this country's security would be far better positioned by reducing our dependence on and use of fossil fuels. That is currently a substantial cost to our economy in health problems due to pollution. The security that is promised by oil and gas companies is ephemeral and does not exist. Despite more than 150 exploration attempts in which we have treated the waters close to shore in Ireland like a pin cushion, we have only found two or three pockets of gas and no commercial oil. The prospect of any major find is minimal, with a huge cost for exploration. If we find something, it is likely to be far offshore and there is no guarantee that it will come ashore in Ireland. When one looks at the geography, it is far more likely to be processed in another jurisdiction and does not give us any security.
We know that, at the same time, there are evolving technologies for the likes of offshore wind where costs are increasingly low and certain. We have probably the best offshore wind resource in the world and we should be making a principled stand that we will tap into that resource. Let us go off to the west, south-west and north coasts and get 15 GW of offshore wind power to help power the country and, indeed, part of north-west Europe in that process. We need political commitment to do that. We need to direct all our investment funds, rather than the gambling that goes into oil and gas at the present time, and steer money to that known, certain, realisable energy prospect which would have the benefit of reviving the west, north west and south west of Ireland. That is the principle we should follow.
Senator O'Reilly said we will be a price taker. We are a price taker in oil and gas because, in the past 30 or 40 years, we have made sure there are fungible international markets. It was certainly the case in oil, it was not the case in gas, but Europe has changed the rules so we now have a much more fungible gas market. In those circumstances, we are just as secure in relying on that international market as we would be thinking there would be any great security here at home.
Senator O'Reilly spoke about our reputation being damaged and it is being severely damaged at the moment. We are seen as the worst country in Europe in tackling climate change. This initiative, along with a whole range of other initiatives we have to implement, would help turn that around. It would help to turn this country green which is where we should go and where we should be. It is the secure economy which would create jobs, particularly in rural areas in the west. We should invest in that and support this Bill. It would say a great deal about where we stand on climate if we were not to do so.