Ireland’s oil exploration digging us into a deep climate hole
Earlier this week, with no fuss or fanfare, Ireland’s first minister for ‘Climate Action’, Denis Naughten TD, signed off on the Druid/Drombeg exploration field on the Porcupine bank off Ireland’s west coast which is targeting “some 5 billion barrels of oil offshore Ireland”.
If recovered and burned, this 5bn barrels of oil will release some 1,500,000,000 tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere, an amount which far exceeds the 1bn tonnes (our remaining national quota) that Ireland can ever emit, in total from all sources, while still hoping to avoid a calamitous +2°C global temperature rise.
Ireland’s current total annual emissions from all sectors are currently around 60 million tonnes a year, and this figure must drop sharply in the coming decade in line with our international commitments. The Druid/Drombeg licence could therefore potentially produce the equivalent of all Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions for at least the next quarter of a century.
According to an energy industry newsletter, “The Stena IceMAX deep-water drillship is contracted for the programme, and operations have now begun after the Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment gave consent on July 11th."
“Providence (an Irish oil firm with a 56% stake in this well) told investors that a further update will be provided once the Druid prospect has been penetrated, or as appropriate, drilling is then planned to continue down to the underlying Drombeg prospect”.
In a video message at the launch earlier today of the SEAI’s Five-Year Strategy, 2017-20121, minister Naughten said: “we are determined to drive Ireland’s low-carbon energy future”.
The drilling licence this week drives Ireland’s low-carbon energy future off a cliff. Naughten went on to say that “energy and climate action are inextricably linked”. The irony here is deafening. The SEAI Strategy "envisions an Ireland where energy is sustainable, secure and clean". Oil drilling is inherently unsustainable, insecure - and dirty.
John Gibbons, An Taisce's Climate Change Committee spokesperson stated “For the Irish government, and our first-ever ‘Climate Action’ minister in particular, to preside over the ecologically reckless and utterly unsustainable pursuit of offshore oil at the very time that climate science warns us we cannot dare to burn more than a fraction of already established fossil fuel reserves, amounts to reckless endangerment the part of the Government”
Despite the ecological and climate wreckage involved in this highly destructive form of energy, little or no revenues and very few jobs will ever accrue to the Irish state if this massive oil exploration goes ahead. Minister Naughten himself appears to be in a state of complete confusion on the issue. Speaking at the 2016 Energy Ireland conference in Dublin, Naughten said: “Of course, the simplest solution to many of our challenges in the energy sector is to reduce the amount of energy we use. It is often said that the cheapest barrel of oil is the one not burned”.
The recent successful passage of the Anti-Fracking Bill through Dáil Eireann underlines the widespread opposition in Ireland to reckless fossil fuel extraction. To conduct this same extraction in a rich marine habitat off the Irish coastline shows a blatant disregard for ecology, as well as placing the entire western seaboard at risk.
If a Deepwater Horizon style accident occurs on an oil rig in the Porcupine basin, the devastation along the entire west, northwest and south west coastlines would be almost incalculable. Will Minister Naughten take the blame, and will the Irish taxpayer be left cleaning up someone else’s multi-billion euro mess yet again?
John Gibbons continued "An Taisce today calls on the Minister and the Government to announce an immediate review of the continued role (if any) for further fossil fuel extraction within the national territory (onshore and offshore) in the light of the unfolding global climate crisis; such review to explicitly include seeking the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Council, and wide public consultation in the context of the forthcoming National Dialogue on Climate Action; and, pending the conclusion of this review, to put in place an immediate moratorium on the issue of any further licences for fossil fuel exploration or extraction within the national territory."
In issuing this call, An Taisce puts all relevant parties on notice that it is our intention to campaign tirelessly for such a moratorium to be enshrined in legislation on a permanent basis as soon as possible.
For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland i www.antaisce.org
About An Taisce
An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.