Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 8 May 2014
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications
EU Energy Policy: European Commission
I welcome Mr. Mamer and Mr. Claridge and thank them for attending. I am Deputy Michael Colreavy and I am a member of Sinn Féin, which is one of the Opposition parties. I represent a small constituency, Sligo-Leitrim, in the north west. The constituency will soon comprise Sligo, Leitrim and parts of Donegal and Cavan, all of which are under the most immediate threat from fracking. If they have time at some point, I would love our guests to visit the region to witness its beauty. When they see it, they might well ask why it is being considered as suitable for fracking. I hope Mr. Mamer and Mr Claridge will take up my invitation because they would be most welcome.
It sometimes seems that there is a disconnect between the EU's stated strategy and the decisions and actions taken by the Commission and individual member states. In that context, let us consider the position with regard to climate change targets. If only 25% of the oil and gas resources that have been identified were to be extracted and used, we would breach the targets we have set in respect of climate change. Despite this, exploration companies are being paid to seek out new sources of gas and oil. Climate change is not just a European problem, it is a global one. As a result, worldwide action is required. I am of the view that the EU could be a leader in the context of ensuring that such action is taken. If we are seriously concerned about the welfare of future generations, there must be a more logical link between the targets set by the EU and individual member states and the actions and choices we make. The nub of the problem is not potential sources of supply, rather it relates to distribution and control of costs. I do not believe we are making sufficient efforts at present, particularly in the context of non-renewable sources. I would appreciate our guests' opinions on that matter. The EU has a responsibility to the citizens of its member states to control the costs they must bear in the context of energy prices.
The second question I wish to ask is similar, but not identical, to that posed by the Chairman. Ireland is considered critical, from a clean, green perspective, in terms of its contribution - both within the EU and on a worldwide basis - to food security. We are extremely proud of that fact. Is it wise for the authorities here to even consider allowing hydraulic fracturing to proceed, particularly if there is a chance that it might threaten the reputation of our agrifood business? We spent years building up that reputation and, as already stated, our agrifood sector is critical to food security throughout Europe and across the globe. No one would seriously consider allowing fracking on the Amalfi Coast, particularly as fracking would lead to it becoming an industrial wasteland. The area in which I reside is Ireland's Amalfi Coast but, unfortunately, without the sunshine and with a bit more rain. However, we have nice green grass there.
I understand the EU Commission recently signed a comprehensive trade agreement. It may be an unintended consequence but that agreement appears to make it easier for energy companies to take legal action against countries which seek to protect their citizens and environmental rights from potentially damaging oil and gas extraction. One company has already taken action against a state in Canada which was seeking to protect citizens' rights. Was the EU Commission aware of that risk when the trade agreement was signed? If, as appears to be the case, that risk is real, is there any scope for the EU to close the loophole in the agreement even though it may have already been signed?
On greenhouse gas emissions, one of the reasons Ireland has a good reputation for food is because cattle here are fed on grass. We should not be penalised for doing what we do well. We should be penalised if we make bad choices and decisions but we should not be penalised for rearing grass-fed cattle which are much sought after throughout the EU and the rest of the world.