Dáil debates

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

8:00 pm

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)

If we were simply using our position in Opposition to oppose, it would do a great disservice to what Deputy Coveney has done, and we would not see such a well crafted motion before us. It is a classic example of the dog in the manger, that the Ministers cannot accept this motion deals with a serious problem. It is about security of supplies and the difficulties we need to address. They have been overshadowed in particular by the banking crisis, which has been caused largely by the Greens' Government partners. That crisis has overshadowed everything and meanwhile there are issues such as peak oil and the uncertainty of energy supplies which need to be addressed. Nothing the Minister has said contradicts what is in the Fine Gael motion. That is why I have difficulty in understanding how small the Ministers' minds are that they cannot accept this motion. The strength of having a motion accepted across the House is not that the Opposition wins or scores a point; it is in showing that there is cross-party unanimity on a key issue that we face and which is not in the public consciousness. The public are mystified by its effects. For example, people are mystified why the price of petrol has gone so high, while the price of crude oil has not. It is about currency fluctuations and taxes, but it underlines the point that this is a very volatile market. We are at one in that we must find ways to deal with essential supplies, as well as ways to generate and use energy.

One of the really good things that came out of the Green Party's contribution was the establishment of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security. We all worked very well on that and will continue to do so, although it is a pity Deputy Cuffe is not there with us. That is the kind of thinking we must adopt if we are to meet the challenges ahead. It disturbs me that the old ways are now being adopted by the Green Party at a time when it argues, as we do, that we need to have new ways of dealing with this matter.

It is regrettable that this motion has not been accepted. It is not controversial but it is challenging in a good sense. It is not party political but it makes the point that this is a political issue. I am genuinely befuddled as to why it has not been accepted. We are all conscious of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, which stated:

There is an emerging consensus that without structural changes in the oil supply market, oil price volatility and the consequent economic volatility will be the dominant feature of the foreseeable future. The targets for renewable energy, while visionary and to be welcomed, are not ambitious enough. A wartime response is required to head off this issue before 2020.

That is a stark statement from a body that is not particularly inclined towards sensationalism. The issues include protection of supplies, the shift from fossil fuels, and ways of conserving and reducing our energy usage. Much of it comes down to energy legislation, and I welcome the fact that the Minister mentioned that. I appreciate there are demands on a small Department but he has indicated there will be legislation and I look forward to that. I hope he can introduce it, but legislation on geothermal power has been already promised. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, gets home soon, wherever he is. He indicated that we could expect to see that legislation by February. We need to move on that. We are talking about self-reliance and self-sufficiency to a much greater degree than this 95% dependance on fossil fuels. We need to concentrate on achievable goals.

I was dismayed to discover when I opened the legislative programme that, according to the Government, there is no publication date for the climate change Bill. That is at variance with the trend that began when the joint Oireachtas committee produced a report on climate change legislation. I was the rapporteur for that report, which contained an explanatory memorandum and was well received. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, produced his own framework document, which was far less ambitious but at least it was an attempt. He presented it before we all went to Copenhagen. As I recall it, the approximate date for a debate on the final Bill was in June. I suggest to the Minister and Minister of State that the Government has some difficulty in this regard and will leave it on the long finger. Therefore, in the interest of the people who voted "green" at the last election, if I get the agreement of the Joint Committee on Climate Change to produce a Bill, will they give it a better hearing and more open attitude than they have given Deputy Coveney on his Private Members' motion tonight?


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