Private Members’ Business.

Biofuels (Blended Motor Fuels) Bill 2007: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I wish to share time with Deputies Devins, Wilkinson and Fiona O'Malley.

While this Fine Gael Bill is well intentioned, as the Minister outlined, the Bill as currently drafted would not stand up to European scrutiny and would contravene the European fuel quality directive. In his contribution to the debate last night the Minister confirmed the thrust of both sides of the House is in the same direction. On Monday last, he announced the Government's intention to introduce a bio-fuels obligation which would ensure bio-fuels would represent 5.75% of Ireland's transport fuel market by 2009 and 10% by 2020.

In recent years in particular we have seen a greater urgency in the approach of all political parties and the public to fuel consumption. In 1970 we had approximately 500,000 vehicles on the road. In reply to a recent Dáil question I tabled, it was revealed the number of vehicles on our roads has increased to approximately 2.25 million. The knock-on effect of that is a five-fold increase in the amount of fuel used by vehicles here. This phenomenon is not unique to Ireland. We have seen a significant increase in the number of vehicles in the developed world. This increases the urgency to find fossil fuel, which is a finite resource. We will not see the implications of the exhaustion of fossil fuels but our children must face up to that fact. It would be irresponsible if we did not ensure a move from fossil fuel to a bio-fuel culture.

I am pleased the Minister for Agriculture and Food has become involved in this debate. The Minister has introduced a new bio-enegy scheme providing for establishment grants of up to 50% of the costs of miscanthus and willow on set-aside land, which has been in receipt of European aid of €45 per hectare. In Carlow, farmers have had to cease growing sugar beet and the number of crop options is reducing every year. The Teagasc research station at Oak Park has done much in the area of bio-fuels, including miscanthus and willow. Initial capital costs are prohibitive but the introduction of the scheme will alleviate some of the costs of growing these crops. Farmers can receive up to €1,450 per hectare in establishment costs, with the balance to be invested by farmers. The scheme provides opportunities for farm diversification and encourages farmers to consider these crops as an alternative. The closing date for receipt of applications is 28 February 2007.

The Minister for Agriculture and Food will also introduce a top up payment of €80 per hectare in 2007 to support energy crops. The payment is in addition to the EU energy crops premium of €45 per hectare, bringing the total payment to €125 per hectare. This Government has doubled the renewable electricity capacity in the past two years. We will exceed the 2010 targets and these have been revised from 13.2% to 15%. The Government is conscious of its obligations.

The Government has also established a ministerial bio-energy taskforce, comprising Ministers from seven Departments. It has met on a regular basis with the goal of drawing up a national biomass action plan, to be published in the near future. The Government has also published five major studies on renewable energy, bio-energy and ocean energy to inform public policy. The public is interested in this matter, which should be the subject of further debate.

The Government has published an energy policy Green Paper, setting out the framework for a national energy policy in the medium to long term and proposing new targets for renewable energy. A White Paper on energy is being finalised and will provide a roadmap for the development of Ireland's energy sector until 2020. Studies and consultations over the past five years are informing policy development and leading to several innovative programmes for renewable energy.

Much work is being carried out on wind turbines. Questions remain over the proliferation of wind turbines but this is an area that deserves more investment. We have a long way to go to meet the standards of Britain, France and Scandinavian countries. The 2005 pilot bio-fuels excise relief programme resulted in eight projects. A number of the successful companies are anxious that they commence as soon as possible. It is important the Government focuses on bio-energy and substitutes for fossil fuels. As a Parliament we cannot sidestep our responsibilities.

I welcome the Opposition's well-intentioned Bill but it cannot be accepted for the reasons explained last night.

I welcome the publication of this Bill but I feel compelled to vote against it for the reasons outlined by the Minister last night. The means by which energy is produced and used has become important because of the impact of global warming. All Members have a common position on this matter. For years the impact of global warming was discussed, with many denying that it was occurring. Even the most sceptical must admit that the world is warming. The consequences are astounding and the root cause, the increased emissions of carbon dioxide, must be addressed. It is vital that we play our part in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced, helping to lessen the harmful effects of global warming.

The Government introduced two bio-fuel mineral oil tax relief schemes in 2005 and 2006. As a result, a significant volume of bio-fuel is coming on the market in Ireland. The use of bio-fuel in vehicles reduces the amount of CO2 emissions and I congratulate the Government for introducing a 50% reduction in VRT for cars that use bio-fuels. I commend the commitment of the Minister for Finance to the green energy programme. While the number of cars that can use bio-fuel is not high, the 50% reduction should ensure more energy saving cars, lorries and vans will be used. Oil, petrol or diesel, is a finite resource and we must conserve it. The use of such fuels in cars, resulting in high CO2 emissions, is doing untold damage to our environment. Steps that reduce CO2 emissions are steps in the right direction. I am pleased the Government will link VRT with CO2 emissions. Bio-fuels are renewable and offer important opportunities to the agricultural sector at a time when many of its traditional sources of income are under threat. It is important farmers be given every encouragement to grow crops from which bio-fuel can be produced. The incentives put in place by the Ministers for Finance and Agriculture and Food are welcome.

If somebody had suggested a few years ago that cars, vans, tractors and lorries would be run on a fuel grown by our farmers he or she would have been laughed at but that is occurring. While more research is needed to find the most efficient and cost-effective way of producing bio-fuel, it is important that every incentive be given to producers and farmers to make us reach fuel sufficiency from our natural resources.

I am delighted the Minister for Agriculture and Food announced that REPS farmers are not excluded from the bioenergy scheme despite some scaremongering by some members of the Opposition. Over recent months there has been a noticeable increase in the number of constituents in Sligo-Leitrim inquiring as to what grants are available for those interested in renewable energy. These greener home grants are available for householders who want to install renewable heating sources, such as wood biomass boilers and stoves, solar panel and heat pumps. Individual grants of up to €6,500 are available and I encourage as many people as possible to apply for them. Not only will the grant help to offset the cost of installation but these heating methods help to cut CO2 emissions and thereby lessen the effects of global warming. I congratulate the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources who has secured an extra €20 million in the recent budget to finance the demand for these grants. Many people in Sligo-Leitrim avail of them. We have a target of generating 15% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010. Wind, and to a lesser extent, wave, generated energy are two abundant sources which it is important to support to the maximum. The Government's allocation of €119 million to help develop wind and wave electricity is evidence of the commitment to developing alternative renewable sources of energy and is firm proof of the green credentials of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.

I welcome the fact that Fine Gael has taken an interest in energy. For the reasons outlined by the Minister, however, I am unfortunately unable to support the Bill. Energy conservation is important and this Government is committed to developing alternative energy sources.

I am delighted to have a chance to speak on this important subject. The increase in oil prices a year or more ago focused our minds on the importance of considering alternative sources of energy. When I was growing up I never heard anything about global warming or the ozone layer. Modern communications make it possible to see at first hand what global warming is doing to our planet. While we are only a speck on that planet it is important that we pull our weight. Although I welcome Fine Gael's belated interest in alternative energy I commend the Government and the relevant Ministers on their actions and the incentives they have given to provide bio-fuel.

Following the loss of the sugar beet crop it is important that farmers have other crops to work their land. Sugar beet was a major loss. It paid so much better than other crops that it is not easy to find a replacement. The various crops suggested here and the incentives provided by the Government will go a long way to achieving that. The provision of feed from some of the crops grown is important and the cost of, and price for, grain are rising rapidly. Grain too can be used as a bio-fuel. When sugar beet was removed we were told that crude oil would have to reach $100 a barrel to make fuel from beet a viable option. Since then the cost of crude oil has dropped and there may be times when our focus slips. This, however, is a long-term issue and we must focus seriously on providing bio-fuel.

In 1970 or so there were little more than 500,000 cars on our roads, today there are 2.2 million and their emissions contribute to what is happening, although we are only a speck on the planet. The interest in bio-fuels provides the opportunity to explore alternative land use possibilities following the recent CAP reform and changes to the sugar regime. Excise duty relief for bio-fuels will be extended from €20 million in 2006 to €35 million in 2007 and €50 million in 2008, 2009 and 2010. This relief when fully operational is expected to support the use and production of some 160 million litres of bio-fuel per annum, some 20 times the current level of excise relief. These are fabulous figures which show the total long-term commitment of this Government to the provision and production of bio-fuel.

There are many other energy sources to be considered, especially wind energy. While wind farms are controversial in some areas, An Bord Pleanála's lack of consistency in some cases is to be deplored. It is vitally important that planning regulations for the provision of wind energy be reconsidered. Wind farms are widely visible in some parts of the country whereas in others permission for them has been refused because they would be in scenic areas. That has happened in County Waterford. It is difficult to understand how when the Government is pushing alternative energy, as it needs to do, an inspector from An Bord Pleanála can consent to a planning application but when it goes back to the board it is refused. There should be some consistency in this process.

I am delighted the Government has progressed bio-fuel development. I look forward to seeing farmers and everybody else benefit from that development.

It must come as a crushing blow to Fine Gael to discover that its proposal is highly illegal. It is unfortunate that the party did not carry out the requisite research before introducing the Bill. Nonetheless, the legislation provides us with the opportunity to discuss this important issue and for that we should be grateful.

I raised this matter on the Adjournment in October 2004. When reading back over the Official Report, I realised how out of date what I said at that time — which was then all brand new — has become. I also came to realise the level of unanimity that exists in respect of this matter. The Oireachtas committee of which I am a member tried to pull together everyone's thinking on climate change and the development of a biofuels industry, but the one group that offered resistance was that comprising the Fine Gael Members. That is unfortunate because we are all interested in the same thing, namely, the development of an indigenous bio-fuels industry.

We have a golden opportunity to work together for the good of the country and arrive at a political response to climate change, developing a biofuels industry and changing the way we use fuel, particularly in the area of transport. We could take this opportunity to demonstrate how politicians of different hues can work together, seek to implement the best of each of our parties' proposals and, for the good for the country, move forward.

We must re-examine this matter because, ignoring the illegality involved, the sentiment behind Fine Gael's Bill is highly laudable. The one difficulty I have with the proposal outlined in the Bill — the Minister alluded to this — is that it does nothing to encourage the development of an indigenous industry.

It is doing more than the Government is doing.

It will not do anything. All it will do is require that a percentage of biofuels——

It will create a market for biofuels.

——be mixed into fossil fuels. However, there is nothing to state that this must be done in Ireland and there is no encouragement for farmers to grow the relevant crops to develop an indigenous bio-fuels industry. I have no doubt that the Brazilians, who have been spearheading developments in this area for many years, would see this as a major opportunity. I would not begrudge them such an opportunity but I would prefer to see an entrepreneurial spirit being fostered among Irish farmers——

The Government is already supporting it.

Deputy Naughten should allow Deputy Fiona O'Malley to continue, without interruption.

——and an indigenous industry being developed.

Earlier this week, the Minister made a commitment to ensure that bio-fuels will represent 5.75% of Ireland's transport fuel market by 2009. This, however, should not be the limit of our ambition; it should be only the start of it. When I read my Adjournment debate contribution from 2004, I discovered how far we have come. I have no doubt that the targets laid down by the Minister are only the beginning and that they do not represent the limit of our ambitions.

The Minister paid tribute to the ministerial bio-energy task force. This has been highly successful and it is extremely necessary. The Departments that have a role to play in the development of an indigenous bio-fuel industry are finally working together. People who have been producing and providing different type bio-fuels heretofore encountered difficulties because one Department would know exactly what they were doing, while another would not. People had nothing but trouble from the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners in particular.

It is necessary that we develop an industry in this area, not just because it is the right thing to do but also to ensure that the production of fuels within Ireland would reduce to some degree our 100% dependence on imported fuels. Such a development is also necessary in the context of our CO2 footprint and waste generation. If we are to encourage the development of an industry, we must do so wholeheartedly and on an ambitious scale.

In 2004 I was seeking the removal of excise relief in its entirety and that the only limit applying should relate to time. This would have allowed the market to develop. Prudence has been the hallmark of this Government, which is understandable to an extent, but we need to display a certain flair and determination. Like the Brazilians, we must develop, in a wholehearted and encouraging way, opportunities for farmers, particularly at a time when farming and traditional agricultural practices are in decline. Farmers need as many opportunities as they can possibly get. Developments in this area would allow farmers to change and diversify and this would ensure that people would be retained on the land.

Developments such as those to which I refer have not yet come about, but I will continue to encourage their introduction because we must take action in regard to transport fuel in use. The transport sector makes, for example, the greatest contribution to our CO2 footprint.

We must take cognisance of the notion of the entrepreneurial farmer. For too long, farmers have had a reputation for constantly seeking protective practices. Development of a biofuels industry would provide farmers with new opportunities. I would give 100% support to any measure that would help to develop our indigenous biofuel industry. Leaving aside its illegality, I cannot support the Bill because it would deny the opportunity for such to develop.

The Deputy should have read my contribution. She is contradicting herself.

I am sorry that I missed Deputy Naughten's contribution. I thought as the Deputy does until I investigated this matter and discovered that the Bill does not provide opportunities for the development of an indigenous industry. In such circumstances, I must unfortunately state that I cannot support Fine Gael's Bill.

Another U-turn by the Progressive Democrats.

I wish to share time with Deputies McHugh, James Breen, Connolly, Healy and Eamon Ryan.

I welcome the Bill as an intelligent proposal to promote the use of biofuels. The Government has set ambitious targets for the use of such fuels as a component of vehicle fuels. However, there is little evidence that the work which needs to be done to achieve those targets is being carried out. Even the increase in energy grants announced last week is insufficient and it excludes farmers who are part of REPS. The reality is, therefore, that there is little likelihood that sufficient numbers of farmers will be attracted to working in an area in which many have expressed an interest or that the large amount of lands required for growing the relevant crops will come on stream.

I am aware of one estimate which indicates that it would require 400,000 hectares of rape seed to produce sufficient fuel to meet less than 2% of vehicle fuel demand. That is more than the current area under crops in this State and it represents just under 10% of the country's overall agricultural area. This is an indication of the scale of production that would be required.

Traditional crops are not the only option. There would, however, be scope to greatly expand the area devoted to them, particularly if farmers were permitted to do so while retaining their single farm payments.

Forestry is another potential area for the production of biomass and Teagasc forecasts it will double by 2025. There is also great potential in the significant amount of set-aside land which could be used to grow particular types of plant. Given the large area of land that is unused or underused, much more attention should be given to encouraging farmers to grow energy crops such as willow. Where necessary, we should be arguing for changes to EU regulations that present an impediment to the use of such land, with due regard to the SSEs. The US, where energy crop production has greatly expanded, is considering allowing 36 million acres of set-aside land to be made available for this purpose. Similar changes need to be introduced in Ireland.

While the potential exists to expand energy crop production, there is also the issue of processing. I visited one such production facility in Wexford last year and I was greatly impressed. Its operators were keen to impress on me that such plants could only meet a small proportion of the demand that will exist if targets are to be achieved. More alarming was the fact that they would have to import bio-fuel crops in order to maintain production because of the lack of domestic cultivation.

It is disappointing that more was not done to encourage the transformation of the former sugar factories at Mallow and Carlow for the production of fuels from sugar beet. I understand from those familiar with the area that this could have been feasible. Had it been done, not only would beet growers have been provided with an alternative outlet for their crops, even an expanded one, but new jobs could have been created to replace those lost through the EU enforced closure of Irish sugar plants. Unfortunately, Greencore had more to gain from moving into property development than retaining the plants as a viable operation. The Government chose not to exercise its golden share to influence the decisions, despite Greencore presiding over the loss of hundreds of jobs and the destruction of the most successful public enterprise in the State's history.

If we do not take the necessary measures to encourage greatly increased crop production and the establishment of processing facilities, Ireland will be merely substituting its dependence on imported fossil fuels for imported bio-fuels. While it would be better for the environment, it would not benefit the economy. It would be a shame if the potential were to be missed as it could provide a much needed alternative income source for farmers and many jobs in the processing sector.

While I support the Bill to encourage the use of blended fuels, we must not lose sight of the fact that bio-fuels need to be domestically produced.

I compliment the Fine Gael Party on introducing this Bill. With the current climate of rising oil prices, it is timely that the House should debate this important issue. The transport sector is dependent on oil to enable it to function. With volatility in the oil markets and its effects on the environment, the promotion of a low carbon economy is vital. In that context the encouragement of the bio-fuel sector is critical. Owing to the similarity of bio-fuels to fuel produced from fossil fuels, the mechanism of adopting the supply system that exists is simple. No obstacles exist in that regard.

When looking for an alternative to oil, what better place to look than to our agricultural sector? Recently a golden opportunity was lost when the Mallow and Carlow sugar factories closed. The Government had a ready-made opportunity to convert the two factories into bio-fuel processing plants. Although the opportunity was lost, we should ensure that future opportunities for the farming sector and the environment are not lost. The transition to bio-fuels will be a major leap and incentives are needed. Studies have suggested that one incentive would be to exempt bio-fuels from excise duties. The UK and Germany have followed this suggestion.

Farmers are experiencing difficulties in making a living from the land with the result that many of them have to work off the farm. Alternative farm enterprises must be explored, for which the Bill presents opportunities.

The issue of bio-fuels has been debated in the House several times in the past three years. Despite this, little positive action has been taken. Any measure that helps Ireland to come remotely close to its Kyoto commitments is welcome. However, despite agreeing with the motives behind this Bill, I fear it is technically flawed.

Section 2, dealing with definitions, states bio-fuel means any mineral oil which is produced from biomass and includes products manufactured or produced from seeds or plant materials. However, the definition of a mineral oil is oil derived from petroleum or petrochemicals. It would have been more correct to use the term hydrocarbon oil, not mineral oil, in this definition. In a later section, fuel oil is defined as heavy oil, the colour of which is darker than 8 on the colour index. That definition is outdated as the colour depends on the processing method that gives rise to the fuel oil.

The pace at which the Government has addressed the subject is alarming. In the past six months Ministers have found a greener conscience. This is merely to appease the electorate as we face into a general election with nothing concrete having been done. Last week the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan, announced grants for the growing of miscanthus crops. While welcome, there is a need to expand on this and develop the link between agriculture and industry. Bio-fuel refineries should be built near hub towns and cities in areas where the growing of alternative crops can be maximised.

The past few months have seen many industries relocate abroad. Our soils and climate are ideal for the growing of alternative crops. In the long term this would reduce fuel costs and encourage manufacturers to remain. The weakness of the grant scheme announced by the Minister is that it ultimately benefits tillage farmers who have the best land. It is of little benefit to farmers in disadvantaged areas, like many of those on the western seaboard. Schemes that would encourage farmers to reclaim land for specific crop growth should be introduced immediately.

The speed at which the grant scheme was announced by the Minister is exemplified in the uncertainty regarding how those in receipt of REPS payments will be affected. Even the Minister is not clear on the effect as she stated she is reviewing the overall position in the context of preparations for the introduction of REPS 4.

Much has been made of trying to meet our EU requirements. The bio-fuels progress report shows that the bio-fuels share of our fuel consumption in 2005 had risen to 0.05%, not far short of the target of 0.06%. Why was the target set for Ireland, the lowest of those set for all EU member states? The reason we have failed so miserably in advancing alternative fuel crops is the lack of imagination, foresight and responsibility shown by the Government. Unfortunately, those characteristics are to be found across all the Departments of this Administration.

I support the Bill, designed to reduce the incidence of ozone layer depletion, one of the greatest threats to humanity. The protection of the Earth's ozone layer has been one of the major challenges over the past 40 years. It spans the fields of environment, international co-operation and sustainable development.

In 1893 Rudolf Diesel was conscious of the dangers posed by the unfettered burning of fossil fuels. He built the first prototype diesel engine that ran on coal dust, but he wanted to design an engine that would run on vegetable oil. His dream still lives and bio-diesel is a simple chemical reaction involving alcohol, grease, fats and oils. All diesel engines built since 1992 can use bio-diesel without any need for modification.

Our dependence on petrol threatens our energy supply security, affects our environment and weakens our economy. Developing the technology to produce bio-fuels will create additional fuel supply options. This can impact positively on these issues and establish safe, clean and sustainable alternatives to petrol.

Nobody knows how long worldwide petroleum resources will last. We can be sure, however, that crude oil is a finite resource. With virtually 100% dependence on imported oil, our economy is particularly vulnerable to price hikes and severe energy disruptions. Producing and using fuels from renewable domestic biomass resources will help ease our dependence on foreign oil and reduce our vulnerability to these disruptions.

Only small numbers of hybrid cars powered by more energy efficient alternative fuels are in use. I welcome the recent introduction of an incentive to encourage motorists to change over to these vehicles. Fuels like ethanol and biodiesel burn with 80% less hydrocarbons and toxic metals than regular petrol. We should follow the lead of Austria and certain parts of the United States where public transport systems run on vegetable oils. This is the approach we should take. Instead of stories about the level of emissions from ministerial cars, we should begin to lead by example in this area.

I support the Bill not as a major contribution to the issues of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, bio-fuels and other alternative energies, but as a small start in this area. The background to today's debate was set only last week in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC. There is no dispute regarding this report's conclusion that the global environment is in serious danger.

The distillation of the scientific knowledge and logic of the world's leading researchers on climate change makes truly shocking reading. They predict, for example, temperature increases of between 1.1° Celsius and 4° Celsius by the end of the century and corresponding increases in sea levels from 28 cm to 43 cm. The report forecasts the disappearance of the Arctic Sea ice during summer and increasing numbers of heat waves and more intense tropical storms. It states that the effect of all these changes will be poverty, starvation, pollution and death. Most worrying of all, the report states it is not possible to stop or prevent this development; we can only seek to stem the scale of it.

This problem must be tackled strongly and urgently. A great opportunity was missed for farmers to use the closures of the Mallow and Carlow sugar plants for the growing of bio-fuels. I support the Bill.

On behalf of the Green Party, I am pleased to support this Bill. I commend Fine Gael on its introduction, which allows us to debate this important issue. I support the development of bio-fuels for several reasons. In the first instance, I support the principle of having our own secure energy supply which, in the event of a shock in global oil supply production, would ensure we have a baseline fuel supply source to provide for public transport, essential machinery and other elements of society's fuel necessities. Within the objective of promoting bio-fuels, I also support endeavours to place a requirement on all oil suppliers to provide a certain blended mix. This is preferable to us trying, by tax reductions alone, to promote the introduction of separate fuels away from the ordinary mix.

Having expressed my support for the Bill, I wish to impart some words of caution. We must be clear, concise and scientific as to what are the likely future outcomes and directions in this area. One future direction of which we must take cognisance and be concerned about is the likelihood that in any support system we devise for the development of bio-fuels, the latter may well come from imported sources. We must recognise that under existing World Trade Organisation, WTO, rules, it is difficult, if not impossible, for any country to devise support mechanisms or set market conditions that require the use of domestic supplies only. Such practice is precluded under WTO rules. Within the EU framework, countries such as Germany and Holland are attempting, if not to set specific national regulations in terms of which fuels can be supported, but at least to tie into support mechanisms the requirement that certain environmental or other standards are met in terms of new fuels. In this way, there is at least an attempt to ensure products come from a sustainable source.

My second caveat is that as well as the possibility that such fuels will be imported rather than grown by Irish farmers, the likelihood is that they will come from countries such as Brazil, which have a significant competitive advantage in this area by dint of their warmer climate, economies of scale and their experience of working in this industry for several years. I have seen figures for crops grown in Brazil, whether bioethanol or palm oil crops, which show they can be produced for a fraction of the costs of similar crops grown in the United States, for example, such as wheat-based bioethanol. One can only assume the same would apply to similar bioethanol or other bio-fuel crops grown here.

We must be aware of the possibility that any supplier who avails of legislation or Government support systems in this area may by right and with the protection of international trade rules order those fuels from a distant country. The reason I support the German and Dutch attempted restrictions in this regard is that there is also an environmental concern regarding such imports in that they may involve the generation in countries such as Brazil of crops in a manner that has a detrimental effect on their environment and, therefore, on the global environment, particularly in respect of the decimation of rain forests.

The second area of caution relates to the amount of carbon reduction that cones with the production of any particular bio-fuel or biodiesel crop. Where we are using a waste oil and converting it, a 100% reduction can be gained because otherwise it is a waste product. Various international reports show, however, that for some biodiesel and bio-fuel crops, the level of reduction is relatively low as a consequence of the inputs required for growing the crop.

There are two actions we must take. We must take a scientific approach in terms of the reductions that will be achieved, and we must develop our support mechanisms in a way that supports Irish farmers within the existing WTO framework. Notwithstanding these caveats, I support efforts to generate a secure bio-fuel supply, separate to the general oil supply which will peak and be subject to dramatic variations in coming years. I support the Bill's intentions in this regard.

The refusal of the Government to accept this Bill, which is environmentally conscious and economically sensible, is a disgrace. Nobody, including Members on the Government side, doubt the scale of the economic and environmental difficulties that lie ahead if we do not address the energy crisis that awaits us.

To neutralise the effect of global warming on the earth's population, it is generally agreed that the level of global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 70% by 2100. As a first step towards this objective, the Kyoto Agreement was drawn up with the aim of reducing global emissions by 5.2% by 2012, based on 1990 levels. Under this agreement, to which Ireland is a signatory, we undertook to limit the increase in these emissions to 13% based on our 1990 emissions. Without any action, it is now estimated that our emissions will rise by 37%, almost three times the permissible level. I understand the report leaked last week by the Environmental Protection Agency toThe Irish Times, which may be published tomorrow, shows that our emissions are out of control, particularly in the area of transport.

In putting forward this Bill, Fine Gael makes the point clearly and practically that we must take the first step to address this crisis. Bio-fuels have the potential to provide significant benefits to our farmers, our environment and our economy. Most European states have begun the process of kick starting the bio-fuel industry by using set aside land for the growing of bio-fuel crops. Ireland must act now if we are to reach these standards. It is clear Irish agricultural land offers significant potential to develop alternative energy crops. We must be practical in what we can achieve — at least in the initial stages of developing a viable bio-fuel industry. However, it makes sense to follow the examples of other EU states which are much more advanced in such technologies than Ireland.

The greatest potential for Irish farmers and industry lies in the development of bio-diesel and bio-ethanol. We must focus on developing this area as a priority. The immediate focus must be on developing the process of fuel blending. Essentially, this would involve blending standard motoring diesel with rape seed oil to produce bio-diesel and petrol with bio-ethanol. That is why Fine Gael has developed a comprehensive policy in this area.

Excise duty on bio-fuels produced from all renewable energy crops should be removed. This would drive down costs and entice more players into the market. We urgently need establishment grants for producer groups that would consist of up to 50% of the cost of setting up the group — subject to a maximum of €300,000 per group. A public competition for the establishment and operation of a number of bio-fuel processing plants strategically located in a selected number of locations should be put in place. Capital start-up grants for these processing plants should be given to enable these plants to become established and begin viable processing operations.

It is vital that we establish greater links with international bio-fuel processors and fuel suppliers and the relevant Departments, especially the Department of Transport and the Department of Agriculture and Food, to facilitate the promotion of the bio-fuels industry.

However, production cannot flourish if there is no market for what is produced. At present, the growth of bio-fuels is hampered by the absence of any serious outlet in which to sell them. That is why this Bill proposes to legislate for all motor fuels to include a blend of fuel from renewable sources. All petrol sold at filling stations would include a 5% bio-ethanol mix and all diesels would contain a 2% bio-diesel mix. This would not necessitate the conversion of standard motor engines and would represent a good start in reducing emissions from cars. It would also provide an immediate market for farmers to sell energy crops.

As well as what we put in our cars, we need to do all we can to promote the purchase of energy efficient and economical cars. That is why we must look at VRT. To do this, Fine Gael, in government, would establish a system of energy efficiency labelling for vehicles and reward those that are awarded a higher rating with a reduced rate of VRT. Similarly, vehicles with a lower rate of efficiency would be penalised with a higher rate of VRT.

Since becoming Fine Gael spokesperson on the environment, I have seen first hand the problems with the planning system. If we are to have any hope of developing an alternative energy infrastructure in the future, it is vital we reform our current system of planning. There is an urgent need for a proper alternative energy structure as there is for a proper road network. It is vital we put in place a planning process that can cope with that need.

The Dutch system of planning can offer Ireland a very important lesson. In the Netherlands, the Government decides, on a national basis, the infrastructure projects needed and the best area in which to locate them. It then consults Parliament, local authorities and the people. It amends its plans accordingly and publishes binding guidelines on infrastructure construction in the period of years immediately ahead.

We must make it easier to reduce carbon emissions, encourage the use of bio-fuels and change the way we live and drive. Most of all, we need this Bill to change the way we operate and transport goods and ourselves.

I commend Deputy Naughten on introducing this Bill. The issue of global warming is threatening to become the most pressing one internationally in this century but, sadly, the Government has failed to come to grips with it. There is a tendency for the Government to wash its hands of the problem, to leave it to others and to wait on the sidelines until it is embarrassed into doing something about it. All it can see is a growing problem for which there is no solution and it is sticking its head in the sand.

I refer to the Government's latest announcement that bio-fuels will comprise 5.75% of Ireland's transport fuel market by 2009. It has been careful not to make any commitments on reducing overall carbon dioxide emissions.

In addition, I have noted with embarrassment in recent months the gap that has grown between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the provision of grants for tackling global warming through the reduction of carbon emissions. Like charity, reducing carbon emissions should begin at home. In Northern Ireland, there is a grant for householders to install wind turbines but there is none here. There is a grant for householders to install small hydro schemes but there is no such grant here. There is a scheme in Northern Ireland for excess power generated by householders to be sold back into the grid but there is none here. Such schemes would be suitable for many homes in my constituency of Clare where, I assure the Minister, the wind blows a fair number of days in the year.

Even the Government agency charged with administering the few grants that exist admits that only a fraction of green energy resources have been tapped so far. This also applies to bio-fuels. The Government has sat on the bio-fuels issue until it was embarrassed by this Private Members' Bill to take action. Bio-fuel is a win-win issue. There is an opportunity for hard-pressed farmers to grow sugar beet or oil rape seed as crops from which such bio-fuels could be manufactured. With the devastation which occurred following the collapse of the sugar industry, this has been pointed out again and again to the Government yet it has avoided the subject.

When one sees a country such as Brazil, which has made bio-fuels an important home industry, one realises the potential that exists. Bio-fuel blends are also being used in the United States, Canada, China, India, Australia and in many European countries.

I am concerned that the detail of the Government's initiative will not be worked out. Fine Gael believes that such a target can, and will, be exceeded by the car manufacturers adapting their engines so they can take a higher percentage of bio-fuels. In Brazil, for example, more bio-fuel adapted cars were sold last year than petrol-only cars. The Government's initiative is a start but it is important it is done right and is not subject to the sloppiness which is the mark of so much Government policy.

For farmers to switch over to a new cash crop is a daunting project and there is still very little profit in growing such crops. I understand the growing of sugar beet and oil rape seed for bio-fuels is not included in REPS. This needs to be examined carefully. For many Irish farmers, the production of such crops in a properly constructed scheme could prove a turning point for the profitability of farms. In short, just as the Government has adopted the essence of this Fine Gael Bill, I urge it to learn from the energy plan we unveiled last year that we would see Ireland generate one third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

This Government has been in power for almost ten years and has not yet realised the serious problem we face as a nation in regard to security of energy supply. Apart from the obvious environmental benefits, the one thing this Government is continually blowing about is its success with the economy. If anything proves that this Administration had very little to do with the success of the economy over the past number of years, the lack of planning and vision in the areas of security of supply and sustainable energy is one of its great failures. It inherited an economy with a budget surplus which was creating 1,000 jobs per month, yet it failed to advance this economy and ensure we have security of supply in the future.

Over the past number of years, this Government has failed to recognise the value of wind energy. The ESB has still not provided the network necessary to maximise our advantage in this area. Ten times more planning permissions are granted by local authorities than the national grid is capable of taking because of the lack of basic infrastructure.

In the last of ten budgets, this Government provided €300 million plus for environmental projects, yet most of this money will be spent purchasing carbon credits because of its inaction in the area of renewable energy. Any Government with any vision should have seen years ago that our agriculture industry was facing an unprecedented crisis. Of all the groups of consultants this Government appointed, surely one of those groups or a Fianna Fáil or Progressive Democrats Minister would have connected the decline in agriculture with the need for renewable energy supplies. As has been said, it was a no brainer. Agricultural resources were available to grow bio-fuel crops and agriculture could have been maintained as a viable industry.

For years this Government knew carbon taxes were on the way. Instead of continually wrangling at EU level about when and to what extent they would be introduced, it could have got its act together and turned the decline in agriculture into an advantage for both the farmer and the nation. Equally, this Government should have seen the writing on the wall for the sugar beet industry. Instead of seizing the opportunity it completely sold out our sugar beet industry. A facility which existed in Mallow in my constituency was capable of producing bio-fuel. Farmers were willing to continue to grow beet at €40 per tonne to produce the fuel because of the value of sugar beet as a rotation crop. Many other crops could have been grown and processed at the plant but sheer lack of vision and planning let the opportunity go. Having closed the factory, the Government has so far failed to ensure its workers, who worked diligently for up to 40 years, are paid their rightful redundancy. Now, in the run-up to an election, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats tell us they are committed to green issues. This Government has been committed to many issues but has delivered very few.

It is not credible for a Government which has been in power for ten years to start adopting policies it might introduce if it is returned after the next election. The Government has had ten years and unprecedented amounts of money and its tax surpluses could have been used to make bio-fuel viable commercially, at the same time revitalising rural Ireland with a vibrant agricultural industry. The Fine Gael proposal is a modest and sensible start, requiring a 5% bio-fuel mix in petrol and diesel. There would be no cost to the motorist as no modification would be necessary and there would be tremendous benefit to farming and the economy. Even at this late stage I urge the Government to accept this very modest but worthwhile Bill.

The introduction of this Bill is very timely and I compliment our spokesperson, Deputy Naughten, on its introduction. The supply of oil, once thought everlasting, is fast disappearing and our dependence on it cannot continue at the current rate. We should develop clear alternatives to meet our energy needs.

I understand the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will represent Ireland at the EU Environment Council next Tuesday in Brussels. I hope he will not be embarrassed at Ireland's failure to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Agreement. Ireland signed up to that agreement to limit increases in emissions between 2008 and 2012 to 13% above emissions in 1990. A recent leaked report showed that, though our emissions were low in world terms, Ireland had the second highest level of CO2 emissions per head of population in the world, which illustrates how serious is our situation.

This Government must take responsibility for failing to take any steps in the past ten years to treat the situation seriously. When oil prices reached a peak last year, petrol and diesel at the pumps shot up in price to approximately €1.14 and even €1.20 per litre. Now, with the price of crude oil greatly reduced, there has not been a corresponding reduction in the price of oil at outlets. There is also a great discrepancy in prices at various stations. I was at a meeting in Clifden last Monday and filled my car at 99.9c per litre. In Galway City it cost 104.9c per litre, in Ballinasloe 97.9c and in Moate 102.9c. In Tyrrellspass, the last station before the motorway, it cost 102.9c and in the first filling station in Dublin it cost 103.9c. I do not know how it can be cheaper to bring petrol or diesel to Clifden than to Galway, Dublin or anywhere else. Even in Carraroe, in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht, the prices were 98.9c for petrol and 99.9c for diesel. Some places are certainly ripping off customers.

Our spokesperson, Deputy O'Dowd, made a novel proposal this morning at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government to show that we in this House are serious about playing our part in reducing emissions. He suggested cars be banned from Dáil Éireann. Why not travel by train or bus? It is very easy and I come on the train except when I have to carry literature from the Dáil. It is a great service and there is a train to Dublin from every part of Ireland. On arrival, the DART service takes passengers from the train stations into the city centre. I do not know whether it is practical and am sure Ministers would want to be driven to the Dáil but this House should show an example rather than just preach about sustainable policies.

This Bill proposes a mandatory bio-fuel component in all motor fuels and to force fuel distributors to include a 5% bio-fuel mix in all petrol and diesel. That will become very important in the years ahead. It will not cost motorists as current engines are suitable for that purpose and would not require modification. It would be mandatory for both petrol and diesel users as the fuel would be blended with rape and seed oil respectively. The transport sector has been identified as one of the largest offenders in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland.

There is no point in encouraging farmers to grow renewable energy or bio-fuel crops, to which the Government pretends to be committed, when there is no market for them. The policy vacuum at the heart of the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government is exposed by its failures in this area. It is quite obvious that, in the past ten years, this Government has failed to do anything about the serious problem of emissions.

There is significant support for bio-fuels throughout Europe. Commercial fuel is subject to mandatory blending with bio-fuels in Austria and Germany. Germany produces one third of bio-fuels in the EU but Ireland has stuck its head in the sand and has done nothing. I ask the Minister of State why that is the case. Yesterday's announcement by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, showed a belated attempt to recognise that the proposals in this Fine Gael Bill represent the way forward.

The structure of the proposed scheme also gives an opportunity to farmers in poorer parts of the country to diversify from producing their current crops.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Government's bio-fuels policy and on our renewable energy policy generally. I reiterate our disappointment with the Bill as presented by the Opposition, which puts forward a policy which cannot be legally implemented. As my Government colleagues have already pointed out, the proposal as put contravenes the EU fuel quality directive. The European Commission made this clear in its bio-fuels directive consultation document published last April.

The preferred policy options for member states have been excise relief programmes and bio-fuels obligations. Ten member states have now signalled their intention to move to a bio-fuels obligation. Ireland is among those ten and is one of the first to signal a long-term 2020 target for bio-fuels. The targets of 5.75% by 2009 and 10% by 2020 are ahead of the EU directive timelines and are fully in line with current EU thinking on bio-fuels. The decision to move to a bio-fuels obligation is timely and follows the roll-out of two excise relief programmes valued at almost €220 million. As a result of these programmes, a range of bio-fuels are now coming on stream in the Irish market and a number of innovative bio-fuel projects are already up and running.

Studies commissioned on behalf of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources have assessed the impact of various policy measures and concluded that excise relief measures provide the necessary short-term market stimulation but that bio-fuels obligations provide longer-term certainty for market players.

Having kick-started an indigenous bio-fuels sector in Ireland through the two bio-fuels excise relief programmes, the decision to move to a longer-term bio-fuels obligation reflects a sensible and strategic policy approach to developing Ireland's bio-fuels market.

It is also part of a "whole of Government" approach to renewable energy policy which is exemplified in the establishment of the ministerial bio-energy task force. The report of the task force will be published shortly, but integrated Government thinking on bio-energy policy is already very much in evidence.

In 2006, following the roll-out of the pilot projects under the first bio-fuels mineral oil tax relief scheme, the Minister for Finance introduced a 50% reduction of VRT on flexible fuel vehicles which are capable of running on blends of up to 85% ethanol. Since the VRT rate was reduced, 200 flexi-fuel vehicles have been bought in Ireland.

The Department of Finance and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have launched simultaneous reviews of vehicle registration tax and motor tax to link those tax rates with CO2 emissions.

In addition to measures to stimulate demand for bio-fuels, the Government has introduced a range of initiatives to encourage farmers to diversify into the growing of energy crops.

Last week, the Minister for Agriculture and Food announced the introduction of a top-up of €80 per hectare on the current energy crop payment, bringing the total payment to €125 per hectare.

Except in REPS and disadvantaged areas.

This will assist farmers in meeting the emerging demand for bio-fuel feedstocks. Establishment grants of 50% are also being provided to farmers for the planting of new energy crops such as willow and miscanthus, and funding is being made available for the purchase of specialised biomass harvesting machinery.

The Department of Agriculture and Food bio-energy programmes are linked directly to the measures being introduced by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

In addition to the bio-fuels policy development programme, a series of new schemes has been introduced to develop the renewable heat market. These include the hugely successful €47 million greener homes domestic grants scheme and the €26 million bio-heat programme, which is providing grants for commercial, voluntary and community groups for the installation of wood chip and wood pellet boilers, as well as solar and other renewable technologies. The €11 million combined heat and power, CHP, programme is also a valuable funding source for business and commercial entities.

The introduction of these measures will ensure that renewable heat will comprise 5% of Ireland's renewable heat market by 2010. While the EU has not yet proposed any targets for the heat sector, Ireland is positioning itself to contribute to the wider EU debate on targets from a measured and informed perspective.

Similarly on renewable electricity, while the renewable electricity directive only requires us to achieve a 13.2% target by 2010, we have made sufficient progress to be in a position to increase this target to 15%. The renewable electricity feed-in tariff is providing the mechanism through which this new target will be achieved. We are also forging ahead with applied research into ocean energy technologies, with a view to placing Ireland at the forefront of worldwide ocean energy research.

The Government is to be commended on its strategic and integrated approach to developing our renewable resources, and I am pleased to note that the bio-fuels obligation will be introduced following detailed consultations with industry players.

Notwithstanding the need for consultation, which is necessary to allow industry the lead-in time to deliver the target, it is not possible for the Government to accept the Bill as proposed by the Opposition today because the measures in question cannot be introduced without contravening EU law. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate and look forward to hearing concrete proposals from the opposite side of the House——

Get the pen out.

——because on the previous occasion we did not hear any real proposals.

I propose to take ten minutes of my time and share the remainder with Deputy Naughten.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am amazed by the response of the Government, the Minister and the Minister of State. They now cite European Union legislation as a means for not responding to what could become a national crisis. Instead of doing something about it with the power in their own hands, they decide to embark on a campaign of carbon trading, which will cost the Exchequer billions of euro before we are finished if the Government continues as it is doing while doing nothing about global warming or the question of the carbon footprint.

Does the Deputy have any proposals? Do not criticise——

When the Minister of State, the senior Minister and the Minister for Agriculture and Food were negotiating the demise of our sugar beet industry, I am amazed someone did not tell them that this is a golden opportunity to provide alternative energy here and meet two requirements, first, crop rotation——

It is not viable.

——and, second, provide an alternative fuel but you did not think of that.

We did think of it but it was not viable.

Deputy Durkan, without interruption. Deputy Durkan, if you address your remarks through the Chair we might reduce the number of interruptions.

It is much easier to address the Chair because the Members opposite are a distraction, and the Chair knows that, although he is not a man who is easily distracted.

Address the Chair and we will not allow any interruptions.

I cannot understand the reason nobody came up with that idea. They would not have been allowed do that in any other country without somebody shouting "Halt". The notion that they are EU statute-barred is rubbish. They are Ministers representing this country on the Ministerial Council. What have they been doing there? I presume the Minister travelled to Brussels today to negotiate.

He will do a good job.

I do not know what he is doing there because if we do not stand up and be counted, nobody else will concede to us.

My colleague, Deputy Eamon Ryan, made a very good point earlier. I am aware the proposals are to import cheap bio-fuels from other countries by flying them 8,000 or 9,000 miles, just as the Government is doing currently with the food industry. Soon we will be importing all of our food from the CAIRNS group of countries, which was negotiated by the Ministers in Brussels in the past few years. That is strange.

This Bill is the litmus test of the Government's intentions regarding the development of bio-fuels. This is a golden opportunity for those in Government to show they are genuinely concerned about the need to deal with the issues that affect us now on two levels. First, there is the question of dealing with the carbon footprint. We cannot solve the world problems caused by global warming but we can make our own contribution to addressing the global warming issue. That is what we must do, and we must do it urgently.

We can deal also with the question of importation of fuels from other countries. We can introduce import substitution on the one hand and security of supply on the other. Both are environmentally friendly and economically beneficial and both are in the hands of whatever Administration is involved in the negotiations. I cannot understand why nobody on the Government side thought about the way they might do that.

I outlined what we will do. Deputy Durkan was not listening.

Instead of developing the concept of bio-fuels and encouraging replacement industry for the agricultural sector which was displaced in terms of the sugar beet industry, the Government made a grand sweep — another €250 million for carbon trading. That is not a contribution. That does nothing for the environment or the economy. It merely postpones the day of reckoning, and that is what is happening on the Opposite side of the House. The Government Members buried their heads in the sand and exposed their rear ends to the air. That is a dangerous posture for which they and, unfortunately, the country and the environment will pay.

Does the Deputy have any proposals?

Deputy Durkan, without interruption.

The Minister, Deputy Roche, is on public record saying how well the Government has catered for environmental issues by virtue of what it has done regarding agriculture. The biggest contribution this Government has made to agriculture is that it has run it down. I assume this country will not have a food processing sector.

I want to outline the details of what happened. When Fine Gael first published its policy on energy 18 months ago, the Government looked at it, read it and copied it, but that was all it did.

It would be a poor day when we had to copy Fine Gael policy.

I accept the Minister for Finance introduced proposals to reduce excise duty on a certain amount of bio-fuels but the quota is now oversubscribed and pure plant oil producers in this country who wish to be included are not included. Sadly, the Government has gone outside the country to supply the market, an appalling gaffe that I cannot understand.

I do not know if the Government fully appreciates the potential damage but when it copied the Fine Gael proposals it did not realise they require a full plan, research and development and a number of inputs. No single element of alternative energy will solve the energy problem. It requires a co-ordinated approach by Departments. That was suggested and the Government agreed in theory but in practice, like all imitations, it was short of what was required.

We do not have to imitate anything from Fine Gael.

The Government woke up one morning to discover it had done nothing on the issue ten years after Kyoto except pay lip-service. The people of the country will pay as a result, not the Minister of State.

More has not been done to remove more excise duty from alternative fuel sources because the Government wants to hold on to it. It makes huge amounts from VAT and excise duty on fuel and energy, as we know. However, it is not too late; there is time for a Pauline conversion. The Government can restore public confidence to some extent in its ability by recognising that we are moving on and that changes must be made. The Government has a responsibility to meet today's requirements and to stop spending time looking backwards over the things it failed to do in the past.

Why did the Deputy not listen to the policies when I outlined them?

It is a fact of life that the Government copied Fine Gael policy, which we published six to eight months before it published a word. The Fine Gael policy was published before the European Commission policy. We went on our own, with the support of other Opposition parties, and decided what to do and that policy has stood the test of time. The only weakness in the scenario is the lack of Government will to take action. It merely made references to policy and, with the exception of the Minister for Finance's gesture on limited excise relief, little has been done.

The result is simple — no one believes the Government. Ministers gave a sigh of relief when people asked what would happen next, deciding that carbon trading was the answer. Why not grow the alternative fuels and use what we have? We have a good record in agriculture so there is no reason that we would not succeed in this area.

The Deputy is confused.

There is a notion that somehow the needs of the economy of this country will be met by importing alternative fuels from other countries. We are already dependent on the major oil companies. All they must do is create a scare in the morning or reduce production and there is an oil price increase in the evening. For 12 months scares were created on a weekly basis to increase the price of oil in the world market. In this instance, the Government is sitting on top of a gold mine.

I have not heard Fine Gael put forward a single policy.

The Minister of State should have because he read the Fine Gael policy. The only problem is that he did not put it into operation.

Ah Jesus.

There is still time and he should do it before it is too late.

I am 25 years in politics and I never had to depend on Fine Gael for policy. I do not intend to start now.

The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources said last night that our proposals would contravene European law. The Minister of State made the same response tonight.

That is correct.

Can the Minister of State then explain why the Netherlands, in November 2006, introduced legislation which requires the compulsory blending of bio-fuels with diesel and petrol from 1 January 2007? Can I also ask why the State advisory service, Teagasc, differs from the Minister of State and the Minister on the feasibility of mandatory blending? In a report published on 3 February, Barry Casslin, the Teagasc energy systems specialist, stated that Germany has gone down the route of mandatory blending of a percentage of bio-fuel with conventional fossil fuel oil. This means that oil companies are not allowed to sell diesel unless it contains the required and certified percentage of biodiesel. A number of other European countries will also adopt this requirement.

France and Austria's obligations came into force in 2005, Slovenia's in 2006 while the Czech Republic and the Netherlands have announced the introduction of obligations in 2007. The British intend to introduce it in 2008. The Government comes out with this claptrap that we cannot do it because Brussels does not allow us but a long list of European countries have already started. The Government and its Ministers have been acting like a lapdog for Brussels, unprepared to put forward a positive position on behalf of the public.

No guts.

Other European countries can do it and we could do it too if the political will existed.

The Minister of State and the Minister are playing with words. We are prepared to amend the legislation to facilitate any nuances the Government might want but it is not prepared to do it. It is on a sticky wicket because it has come under pressure as a result of this legislation. That is why the Minister was forced on Monday to announce that the Government will introduce a bio-fuels obligation of 5.75% from 2009. Why not do it now? Other EU states have been blending for years but we cannot do it here.

The Minister said he will embark on extensive consultations but consultations have been ongoing for years. Farmers and processors involved in the sector are frustrated by the lethargic approach being taken by the Government, providing excise relief to only 16 companies, over half of which will import the bio-fuel while processors that were grant aided or secured excise relief in the first round that are producing bio-fuel have had that relief withdrawn. The largest processor in the country has never been given any support on excise relief by the Government. Why has that happened while we allow a situation where the majority of the bio-fuel will be imported?

For ten years the Government has kicked around the idea of an energy policy. Only when Fine Gael introduced its comprehensive energy policy did the Government respond. Only when Fine Gael introduced this Bill to allow the blending of bio-fuels with motor fuels did the Minister respond. We will not see the Minister's White Paper any time soon.

Fortunately for the public and the environment, the next policy proposal for the future development of sustainable energy in Ireland will be the responsibility of those on this side of the House. The public are sick and tired of this Government, which is constantly a step away from action and knee deep in consultants and reports. The Government is paralysed and the country and environment is suffering as a result. The proposals in the Bill are practical, feasible and will work as they have worked in other EU countries. On this side of the House, we are determined to implement these proposals after the next election.

I urge the Minister to re-examine the bio-fuel programme being operated in the Department. When Fine Gael announced it would introduce this Bill——

The Deputy's time has concluded.

——I was contacted by several large processors who were denied the opportunity to produce bio-fuel made from indigenous sources, while we are supporting fuels being processed and developed in other countries. The Government claims it cares about cleaning our environment, meeting our international commitments and supporting alternative enterprises for farmers. However, time and time again when it comes to a tough decision it has been found wanting.

The Deputy must give way. It is time to put the question.

It is no longer good enough. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 56; Níl, 72.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G.V.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher.
Question declared lost.