I presume the Government have not changed their minds on this matter although in the month that has passed since I moved the adjournment of this debate they had an opportunity to do so. The Government made a mistake entering into this agreement and they only reacted to a situation when it had occurred. They made no attempt to influence that situation with regard to our oil resources. I am confident that our best ploy would be to cooperate with the oil-producing countries as well as to ally ourselves to the oil-consuming nations.
In the course of this debate it was pointed out that Arab oil was reasonably cheap but after we buy it we tax it. Last year we added a severe tax of 15p per gallon. That was a mistake and what has occurred since has proved that it was. It is only fair that oil-producing nations should ask themselves why they should sell their oil at a cheap rate so that other countries can obtain money for their Exchequers through tax, more than they can obtain for the product. If we were selling our beef to any nation and that nation, in turn, obtained a substantial profit from the beef before it got to the consumer we would think twice about selling the beef to that country again. We would look for a realistic price we could sell the product at, as the oil-producing countries have done in relation to oil.
Other speakers have expressed the view that it was a mistake to ally ourselves with the United States whose attitude at one stage towards the oil-producing countries was not likely to gain friends for their allies. When we ally ourselves on the side of the United States we appear to be on the same side as the multi-national oil companies. Why is it that the United States who have the potential to produce their own oil requirements find it handier not to produce the oil they need but to buy oil from other countries? I am not anti-American in my outlook and I appreciate what they have done. If I were asked to categorise the different peoples, the United States would be very much on the right side but in this economic situation we must be realistic. The Minister should have another look at this agreement. It is refreshing to think that the Government can change their minds in the course of 12 hours and I hope this Minister will change his mind about this agreement.
We accepted the minimum voting strength; it is practically nothing and only comparable to Luxembourg. We have tied ourselves for at least four years, probably ten years, to this agreement. The intention is that those who sign it will enter into the agreement for ten years. A nation must be in for three years before it can give one year's notice of its intention to leave. In view of the potential of our natural resources—it is being continually referred to as the only solution to our economic problems and the saviour that the Government offer to our economic ills—is it wise that we should tie ourselves to a group such as this? The Government are confident, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce has expressed the opinion, that we will be rolling in money in time when our natural gas and oil is tapped. It appears that we will have enough energy to satisfy our own demands and, possibly, some to spare. The Minister is conscious of his role as a European but it is not his duty to be a good European before he has proved himself to be a good Irishman. The Minister's motto should be: "Let us christen our own child first and get the best possible bargain for Ireland." It is possible to do that and still be a member of any European association.
We should have a look at the question of turf. Some time ago when oil was available at a relatively cheap rate many people felt it would be uneconomic to exploit our turf resources. However, the recent significant increase in oil prices has changed our views in regard to that. It is now felt that many of the bogs which were considered uneconomic up to now are worth developing. I appeal to the Minister to make an earnest effort to develop these resources. In my constituency there are unproductive virgin bogs but they are unproductive for the want of capital outlay. If money was expended on these bogs a long term return would accrue to the country. It appears that for want of money, or want of interest, the Government have made no allocation towards the development of bog roads this year. Because of an answer given to a question put by Deputy McEllistrim some time ago I believe this Minister did not apply to FEOGA for a grant for the improvement of bog roads. This is a dereliction of duty.
In my county we have areas such as Allenwood where the best of turf would be available but for want of proper roads and drainage. The drainage problem could be got over by simple schemes. In the past before Christmas all counties adopted schemes for the cleaning of drains but these were dropped. If these schemes were reintroduced and an effort made to clear these drains, much of this bogland would be available for turf production and for local people to win their own fuel. If this work is carried out, private firms might go into turf production. I know of a German firm near Edenderry who have done great work in this direction and they provide plots of turf cut for people at a reasonable rate. Many people in my own area and in the area of Kildare adjoining Offaly avail of this facility. The roadways and the drainage there leave a lot to be desired. Government action in this direction is necessary, particularly now when we are talking about conserving energy and resources and making the best possible use of them.
I have a theory that most of the boglands are in areas that are depressed from an employment and investment point of view. Job opportunities are not good in these areas. We should spend money and provide employment in these areas on works such as drainage and roadmaking which have a very high labour content and are very suitable to the unemployment situation we have today. We would be saving money in the long run, as we would be developing a resource that has been neglected, and if we look even further ahead, we would be providing large tracts of cutaway bog which could be useful later on for vegetable growing and other agricultural work. This would, in turn, ensure that in areas where Bord na Móna give a great deal of employment at the moment and other depressed areas like that there will be alternative employment in canning and other ancillary industries which will take the place of Bord na Móna and the other industries that are there, that provide continuity of employment and a renewal of life in those areas.
If we were asked to point out what was lacking most in the country at the moment I think we would say confidence, that is, lack of confidence in the Irish economy and in the country in general. As a result of that money is very scarce. Our oil bill for the year is in the region of £200 million, and this agreement binds us to increase our storage facilities from 60 days to 90 days. If we store 60 days' supply of oil, as it is necessary to do now, we tie up £33 million. If we store another 30 days' supply of oil to bring us up to 90 days, we tie up £50 million, an extra £17 million or so.
In the present economic climate it is realistic to ask: are we in a position to do this? Have we the money to spare? There are matters to which I would give equal priority with our petrol pool, matters such as the need for remedial teachers, improvement of the pupil-teacher ratio, the question of the stopping of amenity grants and insufficient money being injected into the building industry. These are all suffering from lack of capital investment. Indeed, in regard to remedial teachers and the pupil-teacher ratio, it would appear that a decision was taken at Cabinet level to cut back. We had at our disposal trained and untrained teachers, and it was decided to dispense with the untrained teachers on the last day of June, and three years' teaching has been lost to teachers who will no longer get an extension when they reach 65. We could have utilised this expertise which we are now discarding, possibly for financial reasons. It would appear to me that a country that cannot ensure the education of its young people, that cannot give to slow learners the chance which they can only get now and which cannot be given to them again——