Tuesday 22 October 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Petrol stations face extinction as rural Ireland left 'frightened'


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Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Parts of rural Ireland are in danger of losing yet another piece of what makes a community: the local petrol station.

Most people accept that we have to move away from petrol and diesel cars - but the cost may be much deeper than the mere cost of investing in electric charging points.

The Government's Climate Action Plan repeatedly talks about the importance of helping rural Ireland take advantage of the changes coming our way over the next decade.

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But it's almost inevitable that the law of unintended consequences will apply.

An improved road network and penny-pinching resulted in the closure of hundreds of Garda stations.

Email and internet banking made many post offices unviable.

The arrival of low-cost supermarkets forced corner shops out of business.

And changed drinking habits saw pubs close at the rate of more than two a week for the past decade.

Now the petrol station could be the latest victim of a rapidly changing world.

The big chains on the sides of motorways will survive as convenience stores but the small shops on the outskirts of rural towns will be in trouble.

It's not just the fact their pumps will be redundant once we all go electric. It's much more than that. These are the same shops where rural people get their briquettes, a bag of coal or a cylinder of gas.

In years past, cigarettes were a big seller and the newspaper was a staple.

Some petrol stations will install charging points in the belief customers will stop in for coffee while they top-up.

But most charging of EVs will take place in our own homes. According to the 145-page plan, the cost of running an electric Nissan Leaf doing 440km each week amounts to €5.08. The equivalent diesel car could cost you €31.48 while a petrol vehicle is €43.20.

Kerry TD Danny Healy Rae is not a politician we would normally turn to for analysis of the climate emergency but he was correct yesterday when he told the Dáil that people in rural Ireland are frightened.

Speaking of the move towards EVs, he said: "This policy and indeed all the hullabaloo yesterday has frightened many people in rural Ireland. There is a race between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to see who would be greener than the Green Party."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has argued it is "not as simple as rural versus urban".

Of course, he is right on an individual level. The impact of this plan on every household will depend on the occupants' lifestyles.

But it is not as easy to provide better commuting options in rural Ireland. And even though the plan dodges many hard choices in relation to agriculture, farming is under very close scrutiny.

And another social outlet faces becoming extinct. It may well be that we don't miss petrol stations until they are gone.

Irish Independent

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