Seanad debates

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Energy (Biofuel Obligation and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010: Report Stage.

 

2:30 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan. I remind Senators that a Member may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on it. Each amendment must be seconded. Amendments Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, and Nos. 7, 10 and 11 are related, while amendment No. 8 is consequential on amendment No. 7. Is it agreed to discuss amendments Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, and Nos. 7, 8, 10 and 11 together? Agreed.

4:00 am

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 12, after "BIOFUEL" to insert the following:

"TO SUPPORT, PROMOTE AND INCENTIVISE INDIGENOUS BIOFUELS PRODUCTION; TO INCREASE SECURITY OF SUPPLY".

I welcome the Minister and congratulate him on holding his position in the Cabinet. We expect him to continue working hard on our behalf. I also congratulate his party on doing well in the reshuffle.

I am proposing amendment No. 1 but I will speak generally on amendments Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, and Nos. 7, 8, 10 and 11. On Second and Committee Stages we talked at length about the importance of energy security and, in effect, spoke the Minister's language throughout.

We made the point that the amendments we tabled were well grounded in what we thought was best international practice and what was best for Ireland. We were very conscious of the fact that the debate on ethanol is something which can create a new outlet and increase productivity and attractiveness for the farm community. It would provide an injection of jobs and money into rural development. In that sense, it was very attractive. In terms of the Green Party, the Minister would agree that what we proposed also maintained energy independence. When I say "we" I refer to both sides of the House and the Minister during the course of this and previous debates.

We were somewhat unhappy at the end of the Second Stage debate when the Minister's colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, appeared to bring in a few red herrings. He seemed to indicate that what we proposed would increase the price of fuel at the pumps significantly more than was the case. We corrected that on Second Stage and I am glad to say the Minister had no difficulty with our position. I felt we made a lot of progress in terms of understanding each other's points of view in the course of Committee Stage. The Minister recognised that we were all driving in the same direction and trying to get there.

The purpose of amendment No. 1 was to support, promote and incentivise indigenous bio-fuel production to increase security of supply. I tabled the amendment to have a clear indication of objectives. I am not sure how the Minister stands on the amendment but I recognise it would closely reflect his point of view. I am not proposing anything in an argumentative or confrontational manner. The end of the lengthy Committee Stage debate contained long contributions from colleagues on both sides of the House. We all look forward to making progress on the Bill.

We examined the question of jobs and job creation, and the possible major development in Waterford and Kilkenny in terms of processing and distribution. We examined something which was in line with Government policy, in the best interests of Ireland and within European guidelines. In that regard, it should be acceptable.

Another issue which was raised by the Minister of State was that, to some extent, what we proposed might create a difficultly for Europe. We have researched the matter in some detail and do not see that would be the case. I note the Minister accepted that point on Committee Stage and did not have a different point of view. We also proposed something which is in operation in Germany, France and some other places. It is in our best interests to adopt our proposals.

I have closely examined amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 10 tabled by the Minister in response to the issue. A glass can be half full or half empty. Progress has been made. I express my appreciation to the Minister for listening to our arguments. We have had arguments on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the Seanad. This is an issue which is technically dense. I do not think it would ever be argued in the Dáil Chamber. We spent two or three hours arguing about it in this forum. I thank the Minister for listening. I am not enthusiastic about the amendments he has tabled but I recognise significant progress in them. While the amendments do not meet our precise proposal, they appear to give the Minister the power or to enable him, by regulation, ministerial order or statutory instrument, to do what we asked would be done in primary legislation. I presume the Minister will confirm this.

The Minister can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe I am right in saying that while his amendments have the net effect of almost meeting what we asked for by putting a provision in primary legislation, they give him the power to do what we asked for through statutory instrument or ministerial order. That is my reading of the amendments. I would prefer to have the provision in primary legislation but I recognise that at least the door is now open to do this. The Minister has listened to the very solid arguments made by myself and Senators O'Reilly, Norris and Walsh. This is something on which we all aim to find consensus.

I am not 100% happy with the amendments tabled by the Minister, but it would be churlish of me not to recognise and acknowledge the significant progress which has been made and the openness of the Minister in listening, responding and putting forward an amended position. For that reason, I intend to accept the Minister's amendments and not to press mine. I thank the Minister for being in the House during the difficult, convoluted and intricate debate on Committee Stage. We have made progress and it has been a good day for the Bill. In that regard, I will move the amendments I have tabled with the intention, after hearing the Minister, of withdrawing them and not pushing them to a vote.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I note the last comments of Senator O'Toole and second the amendment. The purposes of my Committee Stage amendments and the Report Stage amendments of Senators O'Toole and Norris, which I support, have been to support indigenous production and processing of raw materials to create bio-fuels. At a time when the economic climate of our country dictates that jobs and farm incomes be a priority, we should orientate any legislation in that direction. Amendment No.1, in the names of Senators O'Toole and Norris, is good and proposes that we support, promote and incentivise bio-fuel production. We have a very specific proposal to which Senator Bradford will wish to refer. It was referred to by Senators Phelan and Walsh on Second and Committee Stages. In Belview port in Kilkenny there is a proposal to develop a 100,000 tonne bioethanol processing facility with the potential to create 1,000 jobs. Anything to support, promote and incentivise that and any other bio-fuel processing in the country is laudable and should be written into the Bill. It should be a stated objective of the legislation.

Our economic climate makes such provisions mandatory. It would be reprehensively negligent not to propose such views, as in excess of 437,000 people are unemployed. Jobs must be at a premium. The raison d'être for anything we do here should be job creation. Many people are displaced from construction. There is enormous potential, not just in processing but in the growing of energy crops in this country. Teagasc has stated there are 100,000 hectares of land available for the growing of energy crops without damaging food supply. It is very important that we support this. However, the incentives for farmers are not adequate. They need incentivisation to grow energy crops. Farm incomes are on the floor, farmgate prices are at an all-time low and there are real difficulties as regards declining numbers and incomes which, on average, are about €13,000 per annum. It is scary; therefore, anything that would assist farmers should be encouraged. For that reason, providing incentives to encourage the growth of energy crops would be a worthy objective of the legislation and is what the amendment is seeking to achieve.

The second amendment suggests there should be a level playing field with producers in Brazil and that Ireland should be brought into line with other countries such as Belgium, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary etc. What is important is that we incentivise domestic production while eliminating imports because the objective of the legislation, to reduce the carbon footprint, will not be achieved by long-haul transportation of biofuels into the country. For that reason, it is very important that we attempt to achieve it by incentivising domestic production. As I said, the jobs question arises in this regard. Security of supply is vital and would be served by the amendment in seeking to create a level playing pitch with producers in Brazil. It would be an important step to support the achievement of a €100 million bioethanol processing business in Ireland. Therefore, the amendment is worthy on the grounds of ensuring security of supply, in reducing the carbon footprint, supporting indigenous processing and job creation initiatives, as well as the growth of indigenous energy crop production.

The other amendments are in a similar vein in that they all seek to achieve these objectives. However, the big objective has to be job creation. At this stage the emphasis must be placed on it. We will not overcome our domestic economic ills if people are not put back to work, generating income and economic activity and giving the economy a renewed impetus. It is not just an abstract economic issue that is at stake, but rather the well-being of the people against the reality of unemployment and not having fulfilling work to do. This is important from every perspective in building a society and an economy and preparing for the future. Therefore, there has to be enormous emphasis on job creation. That is the objective of the worthy amendments tabled and espoused well by Senators O'Toole and Norris. It is also the objective of the amendments I tabled on Committee Stage, having outlined my intentions on Second Stage.

Like Senator O'Toole, I welcome the Minister's amendments to the extent that there is movement towards our position. Truthfully, we would prefer if there was a specific commitment in the primary legislation to achieve the standard set in our amendments. As Senator O'Toole said, however, we do not accept all of the arguments presented by the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to the effect that this is what is happening in a majority of European states. We would prefer if it was stated specifically in the legislation, but nonetheless there is the potential for the Minister to make a ministerial order, which could be a step in the right direction, as it is an acceptance, in principle, if not in practice, of our position.

I am heartened that the position I elucidated on Second Stage, developed on Committee Stage and I am continuing to pursue on Report Stage is implicitly accepted by the Minister. That is welcome. While I very much welcome this fact, I would prefer if it were explicitly accepted. Nonetheless, it is accepted and I recognise that it is progress achieved by the Seanad. I urge the Minister, when he comes to make the requisite regulations at a later stage, to insert the necessary standards to create a level playing pitch, as we have suggested. I appeal to him to do so.

It is the prerogative of Senator O'Toole, as a sagacious and long-time Member of the House, to decide whether he should seek a division on his amendments. I defer to his judgement, as someone who is experienced in these matters. While it is good that an advance has been achieved, I hope the Minister will indicate that he intends to accommodate our twin objectives in the regulations, namely, a reduction of the carbon footprint and creating jobs. If we believe the regulations are likely to achieve these goals, we shall be happy to support the legislation on Report Stage.

We are here to create jobs, boost native production and, ultimately, create a better lifestyle and higher incomes for the people, while achieving the objective of reducing the carbon footprint. On that basis, I support the amendments. I support the Minister's amendment with the reservation that it would be better if the objectives were explicitly provided for in primary legislation. Nonetheless, I hope they will be achieved in the regulations to be made by the Minister. Native growers and processors must be given confidence to proceed, with a belief they are competing on a level playing pitch with their counterparts in other countries.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Fine Gael)
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I should have taken a tea break, since the argument was being made so well by my colleague, Senator O'Reilly. I support what he said and look forward to hearing the Minister's response and explanation of the thinking behind his amendments. It will be interesting to hear what exactly he believes will stem from the changes he intends to make. First, I should congratulate him on his safe deliverance in the reshuffle which is always a difficult and dangerous political journey. He has done a solid and constructive job in his Government duties to date.

This legislation is significant from both an economic and environmental perspective. Hopefully, whatever we do not finalise and fine-tune in this House, the Minister may be able to progress in the other House. With regard to the amendments before us, where Fine Gael is coming from has been clearly outlined by Senator Joe O'Reilly. During the Second Stage contributions, and on Committee Stage in supporting amendments made by Senator O'Reilly, the Fine Gael Senators were trying as far as possible to use the legislation to promote a native bio-fuels industry, which would be of huge significance from an environmental perspective but also from an agricultural perspective. There is no need to explain this to the Minister because he is very much aware from his discussions around the Cabinet table that the plight of Irish agriculture is very serious and new growth opportunities are urgently needed. In the whole area of bio-fuels, we have an opportunity to marry two problems into a solution. I am interested to learn from the Minister how he believes his amendment and the ministerial order can impact in regard to helping the development of a native industry.

In responding to our amendments and commenting on his own amendment, the Minister might outline the consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the National Standards Authority of Ireland in the context of amendment No. 10 and section 44X(3). Is it possible for the Minister to include the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in that consultation grouping as it is important that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would be involved to some degree in fine-tuning this legislation? It would be a signal from the office of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on the need to have the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as deeply involved as possible in having this legislation enacted.

To sum up, we have made progress in the Bill. The introduction of bio-fuels into the fuel mix is good for every citizen from an environmental perspective but it is important we use the opportunity. While it is interesting the opportunity stems from the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources rather than the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, it is the first opportunity for the House to use legislation to develop, or at least commence development, of a genuine native bio-fuels industry.

I would be very pleased if Senator O'Toole's amendments, which are very much akin to the thinking of Senator O'Reilly, could be enacted as written. However, I recognise the Minister is at least going a long way to meet us. He might clarify what exactly will be the import of his thinking on the legislation.

I thank the Minister for giving so much time to the House on the Bill. It is more than a step in the right direction - it is many steps in the right direction. It will make a difference to motorists and people in the transport industry, which is correct from an environmental perspective. However, I would dearly wish it to also make a positive impact on the development of a native bio-fuels industry, which would be of significant assistance to Irish agriculture and the creation of jobs in rural Ireland.

We heard the Taoiseach in the other House talk about the new configuration of Government Departments. If it is all about jobs, we have to try to ensure in the remaining months or years of this Government, whichever it is, that every piece of legislation will focus on job opportunities, whether in the field of education, agriculture, tourism or communications and energy. There are job prospects to be gleaned from every single Bill brought forward - certainly, this Bill can produce jobs in rural Ireland. I hope the Minister's amendments will be effective in that regard.

I look forward to the Minister's response. I thank him for his interest in the legislation and for his willingness to at least take on board some of the concerns and views from this side of the House. I hope anything that cannot be finalised in this House, despite our giving it every opportunity, can be fine-tuned in the other House.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I join the welcome to the Minister and congratulate him on retaining his portfolio. He has shown a great degree of innovation and application in this job and it was never in doubt that he would be staying in the portfolio.

This Bill is important on a number of fronts, not just from an environmental and resource perspective but also from the perspective of job creation. There is much potential that remains untapped and we should prioritise it. As was said, and I fully support the point, all policies and legislation that are brought before the Houses from now on should be job-proofed. High unemployment, which two years ago we never thought we would see return, is here, will continue to grow this year and, unfortunately, from what I am hearing from the United States, may continue to grow for a number of years. Therefore, prioritising job creation has to be an absolute prerequisite of Government.

We have already debated the issues covered by the Bill. As we are consuming 6 billion litres of hydrocarbon fuels per annum, the bio-fuel obligation presents both a challenge and an opportunity to us in that 4% of this, approximately 220 million to 240 million litres, will come from bio-fuels. While at present we have significant imports, the thrust of all the debate in this House has been to try to shift from imports to indigenous sources of supply, of which there are a number.

I welcome, as have others, the Minister's constructive response to the debate in this House in recent weeks. I also welcome the amendment which he has put before us on Report Stage. Like other speakers, I would have preferred if it had been more prescriptive but we fully understand, given the debate we have had, the genuine reasons behind that. I welcome that the amendment clearly states we need to promote the use of bio-fuels and meet certain minimum standards. I would like to see the more mandatory term "shall" instead of the discretionary "may" in regard to making regulations but I understand Ministers and officials tend to give themselves as much scope and latitude as possible. Nonetheless, I would like the Minister to say on the record of the House that he intends to make such regulations.

It is important we compliment those who have contacted us in this regard and who have been helpful in resourcing us for the debate. I refer in particular to Green Biofuels Ireland Limited from my own neck of the woods and also Ethanol Ireland, which has a proposal in regard to Belview Port, not far from my area. They have been very focused and professional in the manner in which they have put forward their logical and cohesive arguments.

These companies are an example for others to follow. At present, there are issues on which we are bombarded with all sorts of e-mails. While people may think this is effective, it is not nearly as effective as taking a more professional and focused approach. If one's arguments are strong enough and sustainable, that is the line one should follow. I would like to see others do it as well, rather than thinking the volume rather than the quality of representations will dictate the evolution of policy.

The Minister might respond on the following point. Through the legislation, the country has subcontracted the 4% bio-fuel obligation to the oil companies. The administration will be the responsibility of the National Oil Reserves Agency. The logical argument has been made that in a scenario where we want to see the bio-fuel option leading to the promotion of indigenous industry and jobs, the bioprice should be set at a level to ensure and encourage the obligated parties to blend undenatured ethanol to the 4% level, in order to avoid the buy-out price being passed on directly to the consumer. The bio-fuel targets can be met by an oil company sourcing the bio-fuels through a combination of biodiesel or bioethanol from anywhere in the world. The company's key criteria in purchasing bio-fuels are based on price and quality. The draft legislation claims to create demand and therefore it needs to support domestically produced bio-fuels. I ask that the implementation of the appropriate tariff code 22071000, be included in the regulations in order to apply the duty at the higher level. This is my understanding of what we are trying to achieve. While the regulations allow for this to happen, the fact it is discretionary means it is not mandatory. I do not think the particular tariff code is mentioned in the legislation. In this regard we would only be in conformance with the many other countries which have adopted that approach. Countries such as Germany, Spain, France, Poland, Sweden, Belgium and Austria have adopted this code for similar reasons to that being proposed here. For this to be effective, I would like to be assured that the tariff code will be implemented and the effect we are seeking to achieve will come to pass. I know we all support the Minister in that objective as we will support any other legislation which will have as a secondary objective the creation and maintenance of jobs.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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): I apologise for being slightly delayed in my arrival. I propose to deal with amendments Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 7, 8, 10 and 11, together.

As Senator O'Toole said, the issue arose on Committee Stage of specifying particular tariff codes for ethanol under the obligation on the basis that it would promote indigenous industry. I undertook to address the concerns raised on Report Stage. Having consulted with the Office of the Attorney General, a new section 44X has been added to provide power for the Minister to make an order specifying the fuel standards required in order for fuel to meet the obligation. The introduction of the new section will enable me, once the Bill is enacted, to move to make a statutory instrument setting out the information required about specifying a tariff code and put through the notification procedure to the European Commission in due course. By taking this course of action now we are ensuring there is no undue delay in progressing the legislative progress and in bringing the obligation into force.

I will respond to some of the questions raised by the Senators opposite. There is good reason for introducing this by means of secondary legislation because it provides greater flexibility and it avoids the measure running into legal difficulties elsewhere. It is intended to use this measure. It may be a case of "may" or "shall" but I am fairly confident it will be a "will" or a "will have been".

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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I like those tenses.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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With regard to Senator O'Toole's point about amendment No. 1, we have to be careful we do not fall foul of international trade and other obligations. This is one of my concerns. While we are agreed on the need to increase security of supply and we want to support indigenous production, we have to be careful about how we set that out and not fall foul of international agreements.

With regard to Senator Bradford's point about consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food being included along with consultation with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the Revenue Commissioners, this seems to make sense. I propose to table an amendment on Committee Stage in the Dáil because it makes sense to have the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food involved and for that Department to have an input into the policy as it is developed.

Senator Walsh made a point regarding the buy-out price. He asked how certain we can be that this will work. One of the benefits of using secondary legislation in this regard is that it allows flexibility. My Department will monitor this over the next number of years to see how it is working. Because the price is set by order - similar to the secondary order - there is flexibility. The effect can be measured as to whether it is the desired effect. This is taken into account along with the other issues. This is a complex market in terms of technology, international trade arrangements and so on. The European Union code of practice is something we will need to assess to see how it works for setting standards and regulating the flows of fuels. I am confident we have the right mechanisms here, particularly with regard to the secondary legislation. This will allow the Minister to make orders to continue to adapt with regard to international regulations and as the home market develops. We need to be careful because some fuel crops may have the potential to interfere with food markets. It is therefore better to have a certain flexibility. We must meet our European Union target of 10% of transport fuels coming from sustainable sources. We have to keep an eye on developments such as electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells so we can combine the developments in those areas as we increase the bio-fuels obligation.

The debate in the Seanad has been very useful in this regard as it has allowed us to consider and discuss different options. Government amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 10 provide the necessary flexibility to help support indigenous production. I propose they be accepted. I welcome Senator O'Toole's indication he may be willing to withdraw amendments Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, and amendment No. 11, given the commitment that we are on the same track but just using different legislative means to achieve our objective.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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I thank the Minister and acknowledge his comprehensive replies to all the speakers. We all share the same point of view on this matter.

I agree completely with the Minister's assessment of the value of secondary legislation. We almost have an innate distrust of Departments. The flexibility of secondary legislation is one of the reasons we often try to have matters tied down in primary legislation. I cannot argue with the Minister's point that it gives him flexibility. He has reassured me in his answer to Senator Walsh's question, in particular, that it would be his intention - or to use whatever Latin tense it is, the future perfect - that it will have been implemented when we look back at it. He made a valid and plausible argument that there is such technological change in this area that our detailed proposals could be overtaken by events at some stage in the future. I also recognise there could be change in international trade obligations and in European regulations. The three areas of technology, Europe and international trade provide a very convincing case for change. I defer to the Minister's arguments on that point. I am not convinced by the Minister's throwaway comment about the food-fuel issue. I have looked at it closely and I have gone from one side of the argument to the other and back again three or four times.

One of the great difficulties is dealing with any agricultural product, where farmers tend to follow last year's highest price and create a resultant flood in the market the following year, causing a fall in the price. There were indications worldwide that the attractiveness of ethanol producing crops was at the expense of food, but it is one of the few things that the market just might sort out as it goes along. It is not a long-term problem. It is one that, with strategic planning, the market and regulation, will find its own level. It is, however, an argument for another day. It does not arise today.

I thank the Minister for giving such consideration to our arguments and to the issues we set out. It is a classic example of the sort of argument where progress can be made in the Seanad when it cannot be made in other places because it is dense, intractable and technical material. I also thank the Minister's officials for dealing with this. I defer to the Minister's request and withdraw amendments Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, and amendment No. 11. I wish him well with the rest of the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Amendment No. 9 is cognate with the amendment No. 6 and both may be discussed together.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 6:

In page 10, line 33, to delete "the internet" and substitute "the Minister's website".

These are technical amendments and the Minister said he could consider them for Report Stage. Publication on "the internet" is too vague a phrase. The Internet is a big place and publication on some obscure site would technically satisfy the legislation as proposed by the Minister. I am not suggesting for one minute that this will happen but it should be changed now the issue has been identified. It would improve the legislation. The terminology of the body's website is used in other legislation, such as the definition of the relevant Internet website in the Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction Safety) Bill 2010, published by the Minister and recently passed by the Seanad. I ask the Minister to accept these amendments.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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I second this amendment.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I also support this amendment if it serves to enhance the legislation.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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Any information that it is proposed to put on-line, as outlined in the sections referred to here, will be on my Department's website and-or the agency's website but will not be solely on either one or the other. Therefore, in view of this and to preserve flexibility, I do not propose to accept these amendments.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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Is there any recognition of the difficulty that drove us to table the amendment? At another time the Minister might deal with this but instead of leaving it as it is, he might at least consider this in light of the difficulty that exists.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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We will continue to consider it but I hope the Senator sees that the proposed amendment would restrict the availability of information. It is better to include "on the internet", which would include the Department, agencies, Dáil sites and other locations. It is not the intention to hide it. It is not even possible to hide such information with search engines being so powerful. The wording is better as it is.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 7:

In page 16, line 36, to delete "and" and substitute the following:

"(b) that the biofuel the subject of the application meets such minimum standards in relation to the biofuel concerned as the Minister may prescribe under section 44X, and".

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 8:

In page 16, line 37, to delete "(b) that" and substitute "(c) that".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 9 not moved.

Government amendment No. 10:

In page 30, line 39, to delete "record."." and substitute the following:

44X.—(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), the Minister, having regard to the need to promote the use of biofuels that meet certain minimum standards and to ensure the protection of consumers of biofuels, may make regulations prescribing minimum standards in relation to biofuels, consumed or disposed of by sale or otherwise in the State, which are required to be met for the purpose of making an application under section 44G for a biofuel obligation certificate.

(2) Regulations under this section may prescribe—

(a) different minimum standards in respect of different classes of biofuels, and

(b) different dates in respect of the coming into force of different minimum standards prescribed by the regulations.

(3) Before making regulations under subsection (1), the Minister shall consult with—

(a) the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government,

(b) The National Standards Authority of Ireland,

(c) the Revenue Commissioners, and

(d) the Agency.".".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 11 not moved.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 12:

In page 31, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

"(b) by substituting the following for the definition of "Minister":

" 'Minister' means the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources;",".

Again, this is a technical amendment. It updates the principal Act by inserting the Minister's up-to-date title, which has changed since the principal Act was passed. The amendment is strictly unnecessary because the title was changed by regulation, but it is good practice. The Minister claimed "the Minister" was defined in the principal Act but that is not quite right because the definition in that Act has been amended by regulations and amendments of this type are regularly made as a housekeeping measure. It is not strictly necessary but this is an opportunity to get things right and I suggest the Minister takes that opportunity.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I second this amendment.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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I indicated on Committee Stage that the definition of "the Minister" is already outlined in the principal Act and, therefore, there is no requirement to repeat it. I do not propose, therefore, to accept the amendment.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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The definition of "the Minister" has changed since the principal Act was passed. Is that not the case?

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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As I understand it, the transfers function order already amends such legislation so there is no need to repeat the process.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister for the amenable manner in which he dealt with strong and cogent arguments from all sides of the House. It is a hallmark of the way the Minister works and enhances both the debate and the legislation. He takes on board arguments from all sides that improve the legislation.

The motivation for this legislation is to ensure we develop indigenous industry. This offers the potential for jobs, not just in production but in service. Often where enabling provisions are allowed in legislation the lead-in times before the necessary regulations can be made are lengthy. I appreciate in this instance that a certain process must be followed with the European Union but as soon as this is complete I ask that the Minister introduce the regulations at an early stage so we can tap into the interest which appears to exist at present. Much work remains to be done by promoters and interested parties before their proposed projects come to fruition but we should facilitate their efforts in every way we can, including by the early introduction of regulations.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I join Senator Walsh in thanking the Minister for engaging the House on this Bill. Not only was he present for most of our deliberations but he also responded to our arguments. I do not propose to rehearse these arguments other than to note that our objectives are to reduce carbon emissions, improve our overall environment and create jobs with enhanced incomes.

I am satisfied with the Minister's responses to our Report Stage amendments. He outlined the spirit in which he will act when introducing ministerial regulations in respect of supporting domestic production and processing. I am also pleased he is prepared to consider the novel proposition put forward by my colleague, Senator Bradford, on including the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the regulatory process in order that farmers are incentivised as primary producers. It is heartening that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, is prepared to go beyond Senator Walsh's "shall" to assure us that our objective of creating a level playing pitch will be achieved in the regulations.

From my party's perspective, I am pleased with the outcome of our deliberations on this Bill because our main ambition is to create jobs. It was the sole theme of our conference last weekend and giving people the dignity of work remains our central policy objective. This is the means by which we will build an exciting, healthy and happy society and a strong economy. I thank the Minister for his courtesy in engaging with Members.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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I thank the Minister and his officials and wish the legislation well in its objective of promoting the use of bio-fuels and renewable energy in this State. We hope for a successful outcome because the country needs it.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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): I thank Senators for their engagement on this Bill. As Senator O'Toole noted, the issues with which it deals are complex and technical. I recall a description of democracy as government by discussion. The Seanad fulfils a useful role as a democratic institution. The more we question and consider, the better we will be at governing. We all have a responsibility in that regard, whether in Opposition or Government.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Fine Gael)
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May we quote the Minister on that?

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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Senators can quote me on it. Our work on this Bill is a good example of that type of discussion and governance. We strove towards our common objective of stimulating our economy to create the employment we so badly need. I appreciate the work of Senators and my officials in that regard.

My Department is very small and my officials cover a range of areas. I travelled to London yesterday to meet my counterpart Minister on certain related issues. A bank of ten officials would come in to support the UK Minister on one matter, to be replaced by another ten when our discussion turned to the next item on the agenda. However, the same Irish officials stayed to cover both matters because their briefs were wide ranging. Despite being a small Department, we take on a large legislative programme and I commend my officials on their work. I look forward to taking the Bill to the Dáil for further consideration.

Question put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended at 4.55 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.