We are in an energy crisis, there is no doubt about that. Some will say it started with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But we know that is not true. We have been in an energy crisis since scientists first alerted us to the damage that fossil fuel emissions were doing to our climate. That was in the 1930s.
This week, we see record temperatures in many parts of Europe. A collapse in biodiversity linked in part to climate change. When asked what we should do about the oil deposits that are off the South Coast of Ireland – our only reply can be – leave them in the ground. Oil from these deposits would add to our climate warming and would do nothing to reduce the cost of energy. There are measures our Government can take to protect the most vulnerable in Ireland from rising prices but drilling for oil cheats us all.
In the Dáil this week, the motion put forward by rural independent TDs seeking oil and gas exploration off the Irish coast was roundly defeated. It was opposed by our Government and many in opposition including Sinn Fein. There is practically no support for new fossil fuel exploration in Ireland.
Green Party Minister Ossian Smyth stated: “Climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity which commits the government to act and achieve a rapid reduction in, and a reversal of, our impact on the climate.
“There is no argument for reconsidering the ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration. Transition to renewables is the only way to progress and the proposed change set out in the motion would only distract from this.”
“To suggest the answer is new fossil fuel infrastructure, which is hugely damaging for the environment, does little in terms of energy security.” said Sinn Fein’s Darren O’Rourke.
“Drilling in the Irish sea is not a solution to the cost-of-living crisis, nor is it a solution to the rising prices of fuel or concerns about energy security,” Deputy Ivana Bacik, leader of the Labour Party, added.
In 2021, Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency’s executive director and one of the world’s foremost energy economists, told the Guardian newspaper, “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.”
Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, published on 4th November 2021, has set a target of 80% renewable electricity by 2030. This must be our focus. We cannot turn backwards and ignore the science, the will of our youth, or the constant stream of extreme climate events filling our news.
For too long, Ireland has procrastinated. We have put off the choices we could have made decades ago. Our climate policies and our energy policies must join with those around the world in making a concerted and accelerated movement to renewable energy. Ireland’s climate is dependent on the world succeeding in reducing fossil fuel use. We must be at the forefront of these efforts.
The company that wants to drill for oil has, according to the Irish Times, failed over three decades to raise finance. Yet it is now lobbying Irish politicians again for support. The oil they might produce would be priced the same as oil on the global markets and would do nothing to reduce the cost of energy. Why would we do this to our habitat – the hand that feeds us?
Our island is surrounded by a bountiful ocean of wind that we can harness and by doing so, transform the way Ireland works. For Cork, the example of Denmark beckons. Since the oil crisis of the 1970s, Denmark has led the way in developing offshore wind energy. They now have the 4th best energy architecture performance in the world in 2017 according to the World Economic Forum. They have the second-best energy security in the world according to the World Energy Council.
This is the path that Cork and Ireland need to take now.
Our cities and towns can be powered by our own renewable energy. We must stay the course and not be swayed by false arguments which ignore the consequences. There is no future for us if we continue to ignore the evidence before our eyes.
We have been in an energy crisis for decades and because we live in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone we think we can ignore the consequences. It is time now for Ireland to go in a new direction courageously and resolutely. There is no case to be made for drilling for oil off the coast of Ireland. There hasn’t been for decades and there isn’t now.