Dáil debates

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

6:00 pm

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal North East, Fine Gael)

I congratulate Deputy Coveney on the work he continues to do in this area and on putting forward this motion, which is proactive in nature and which offers suggestions to the Government.

I previously worked as a geography teacher and I recall that when my students opened their books to the chapter on energy security and fossil fuels and what might happen in the future, they found the subject unexciting, uninteresting and boring because it did not reflect reality. However, we are now living in the post-oil era and a new reality has emerged. In recent weeks people have begun to panic because they are being obliged to pay, on average, an additional €50 in respect of an order of 1,000 litres of home heating oil. They care panicking because many of them cannot afford to pay the extra cost. People have also begun to use green diesel illegally as a result of their not being able to afford the alternative. Reality is beginning to bite because people, farmers included, can no longer afford to purchase these fuels. We put forward a suggestion to the Minister at the time of the budget that farmers should have been excluded from the additional carbon tax on farm fuel. However, that suggestion was ignored.

Those who are currently studying geography in schools have their classrooms heated by radiator systems which burn oil in order to produce such heat. The Minister could take the lead in respect of this matter. Why, as Deputy Coveney inquired, are we not considering, in respect of Government buildings, public libraries and offices and schools which close at 4.30 p.m. or 5 p.m., of creating electric storage facilities that could be fuelled at night-time. That is a simple suggestion and it would provide a solution with regard to our needs in respect of public buildings. At 8 a.m. each day, prior to public buildings opening, oil must be burned in order to produce heat. We could, however, put in place electricity storage facilities whereby such buildings could be heated through the night and this would ensure that costs would be reduced.

We should also consider the lead taken by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in respect of hydrogen, electrolysis and fuel cell technology. In the UK, a great deal of research has been carried out at the universities of Warwick, Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham in respect of the latter technology. We should be taking the lead in this regard and our third level sector should be examining the possibility of developing fuel cell technology as a solution to our problems. The Minister will state that this is already the case but not enough is being done. The reality is that there are many possibilities and permutations to be considered with regard to advancing alternative technologies and systems in the interests of ensuring energy security and safeguarding energy production.

On one day alone last summer, 1,000 MW of energy were imported to Paris from the United Kingdom. This was due to the fact that temperatures in France were so high at the time that it was not possible for nuclear energy to be produced for a period of two weeks. We need to fast track that interconnector between Ireland and Wales and be in a position to export our energy. We need to think outside the box. Rather than pinning farmers against the wall in terms of overhead pylons and so on, why do we not look at running this under the sea and at perhaps running it from Dublin to Moneypoint where we have a 400 kV line and up the west coast to Ballyshannon? The problem with this Government is very simple. A Government that will not take responsibility for the past is certainly not in a position to take responsibility for the future, especially in terms of energy security.


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