According to a tweet from John Gormley in the last couple of hours, a climate change bill will finally make its way to the Cabinet next Tuesday (16th). Much credit here is due to Labour’s Liz McManus, rapporteur on the Oireachtas Climate Change Committee and tireless campaigner for a strong climate law for years.
“As the threat of global warming grows inexorably the case for a legislative response is compelling”, McManus wrote in the Forward to the committee’s Second Report on Climate Change Law, published last month. The bill provides for aggressive emissions reductions targets, with the meeting of these targets the direct responsibility of the Taoiseach of the day.
(a PhD student from TCD takes issue with the likely effectiveness of such a route over at Irisheconomy.ie, arguing: “Setting ambitious long-term targets might sound good, but in reality this does not provide any greater certainty to businesses, investors, or consumers, simply because such targets are purely aspirational and are not credible without specific measures to achieve them”. Interesting points, shame about the source.)
For this commentator, it is unfathomable that the Greens would have chosen to stay lashed to the mast of the rapidly sinking ‘Good Ship FF’ unless they did so with the determination to deliver on their most critical commitment – a strong climate change law. Looks like this may finally be realised, though quite how much watering down has taken place remains to be seen.
Energy minister Eamon Ryan hosted US Energy Secretary (and Nobel laureate) Stephen Chu in Government buildings last week. This is the first time I’ve seen Chu in person. He is indeed an outstanding scientist, but a pretty rotten science communicator. At one point he referred to the development of green infrastructure, etc. in the US as among “the fundamental non-partisan issues”.
Clearly, if he honestly thinks this can be moved forward on non-partisan platform, he mustn’t have been paying attention to the Republican party’s ever-escalating war on reality. Take the quite mad Republican senator and prospective Energy Committee chairman, John Shimkus. This individual, clutching a thick copy of the Bible, explained that the world will only end when God says so, i.e. no need to worry about climate change then!
Quite why highly educated, exceptionally clever folk like Chu and his boss, president Obama persist in trying to “engage on a bi-partisan basis” with a party that has been taken over by extremist Christian fundamentalists is a sorrowful mystery. You don’t “engage” with a mad dog. You back off slowly, while reaching for a sturdy club.
Back in Dublin, Ryan told the meeting that earlier that day, 30% of Ireland’s electrical power was coming from renewables, and he outlined how this could be seriously ramped up in the coming years. The main purpose of rapidly deploying renewables is two-fold: to reduce our dependence on (expensive) imported energy and to move towards ultra-low to zero emissions energy as swiftly as possible.
And who could agree with such laudable strategic energy goals? Who else indeed, other perhaps than our very own Minister for Natural Resources, Conor Lenihan. While Ryan is busily selling Ireland to the world as the next vanguard of renewable energy, Lenihan announces that Ireland, just like the Niger delta, is “open for business” – for offshore oil drilling. Seriously. And on a grand scale:
“The 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing Round which I launched earlier this year…. this innovative round will be Ireland’s largest to date, covering an area of just over a quarter of a million square kilometres including a number of large sedimentary basins with proven petroleum prospectivity.”
And the depths involved? “The area on offer extends from about 30-380 km from shore with water depths typically ranging from 200m, or less, to over 3,000m”, says Lenihan. OK, let’s take that last figure again. 3,000 metres. That’s three kilometres – straight down.
Is it really safe to drill down that far from a deep sea platform? Let me think….well, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the well that blew last April and continued for months, largely because it occurred so deep down as to make it extremely difficult to plug the leak…that occurred at 1,500 metres. Or 1.5 km straight down. Or, if you prefer, at HALF the depth Minister Lenihan is proposing letting the same wizards muck around at just off our coastlines. Meanwhile, the rigs will be battered by the mountainous north Atlantic ocean….
It’s unfair to suggest we could end up with the Gulf of Mexico, Part II on our blackened hands. Our version would be far, far worse. Clearly, a similar disaster in 3,000 metres would effectively be irremediable, and we would probably end up destroying coastlines from Mizen head to as far south as the north west coast of Spain. Not to mention, of course, the ecological calamity and extermination of our tourism and fishing industries into the bargain.
Perhaps Conor is trying to one-up his big brother again: any disaster Brian can inflict on this benighted isle via his capitulation to the banks and bond holders, little bro’ can easily match with the mother of all oil slicks off our ruined coastline. And since Conor is luring the oilmen here “with a competitive tax regime, in which their business will flourish”, we can take it the State won’t be over-burdened with substantial royalty payments with which to help finance the clean up?
The US government may have had the muscle to force BP to pay for the Gulf of Mexico disaster, but as much oil as that is dumped into the Niger delta every year for the last two decades, and the only people paying are the ordinary Nigerians whose lands have been destroyed and lives blighted by reckless oil drilling and profiteering.
The press statement with all this joyous news about Ireland’s commitment to deep-sea oil drilling emanated from Adelaide Road in Dublin 2, home to the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources – and its Green senior minister.
You would struggle to make this stuff up.