"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
A SINN Féin Private Members‘ motion calling for the establishment of a state exploration company, which would hold a 51 per cent share in all oil and gas finds, was debated in the Dáil last week.
Responding to the motion, Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte said there was a ‘developing myth’ that this country had vast quantities of untapped oil and gas off its shores.
The Labour Party minister observed that his department has estimated there could be the equivalent of 10 billion barrels of oil offshore, but that this was just an estimate based on geological and regional criteria.
“Some commentators have chosen to represent this estimate in a manner that would suggest that this volume of oil and gas had actually been discovered offshore Ireland,” he said.
Citing the high risk of unsuccessful exploration as a key reason to leave it up to the oil companies, he noted that the cost of drilling 100 exploration wells in the Atlantic would be in excess of €10 billion.
He also argued that if Ireland’s petroleum tax terms were fixed at the same levels as the UK or Norway, no exploration investment would take place.
However, Sinn Féin’s Deputy Martin Ferris argued that if the State took a proper stake in oil and gas finds, it would provide a financial bonanza accrued already in other countries.
Deputy Ferris said: “Contrary to the myth being spread here, states which imposed such terms are not necessarily radical or even to the left.”
“If the companies are happy to pay a tax rate of 78 per cent in Norway and an average international rate of 68 per cent, then surely they would be happy to pay a tax rate of 50 per cent here and to concede the State’s share,” he continued.
He added that the country’s oil and gas resources, as well as wind, fisheries and forestry should be harnessed to revive enterprise and the spirit of the people