Irish Cabinet Blocks Offshore Drilling Ban
The Irish Cabinet has blocked a bill that would have ended further oil and gas exploration off the coast of Ireland, drawing praise from the energy industry and condemnation from environmental groups.
The cabinet of Fine Gael Taoiseach Leo Varadkar took this decision based on the bill's potential financial impact on the government, including the loss of royalties and the certainty of lawsuits from the holders of existing drilling licenses. For issues affecting public finances, the cabinet has the authority to block legislation in the Dáil, Ireland's parliament. The Dáil had already passed the anti-drilling legislation (dubbed the Climate Emergency Bill) twice by majority vote.
The cabinet also acted on analysis showing that the bill would have resulted in greater natural gas imports, increasing emissions from gas transportation and raising Ireland's net carbon footprint.
TD Brid Smith, the bill's author, accused the government of "greenwashing" in killing the bill. “We have to take radical action and keep fossil fuels in the ground,” she said. “Fine Gael has . . . demonstrated they are totally beholden to the fossil fuel industry.”
Ireland's offshore industry commended the government on its decision, describing it as a win for the Irish economy and for the environment. “Government has recognised that using our own natural resources is not only good for energy security but also good for the environment and jobs. The facts speak for themselves: Russian gas imported to Ireland creates 34-38 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than using Irish gas, while [LNG] imported from Qatar creates 22-30 percent more," said Mandy Johnston, CEO of the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA).
IOOA noted that a ban on exploration would have left Ireland with fewer options after Brexit and more vulnerable to supply disruptions overseas. At present, Ireland produces about 60 percent of its own gas from two offshore fields, but these existing sources are expected to decline over the next decade.