As Cabinet documents reveal winter-time preparations for energy rationing and fresh emergency powers, a new urgency towards energy security has not yet imposed itself on the thinking of our domestic elites.
With Corrib gas fields going dry and no movement as of yet on tapping into Barryroe deposits, all probability points to Ireland becoming entirely reliant on the post-Brexit UK for its gas supplies mid-decade.
With nuclear energy off the table, wind power flatlining, peat being phased out and an Eamon Ryan sized ministerial roadblock on the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants, the state is running out of road as to what to do around energy, all the while Europe digs in for a harsh winter.
With no major gas storage facilities, despite the best wishes of some in the private sector to redevelop underground sites at Kinsale, Ireland’s ability to grapple with the turbulent years ahead is diminished by governmental inaction.
A flashpoint for this dysfunction is the Shannon Estuary where a coalition of locals and climate activists are objecting to the creation of a €650 million storage facility for American gas imports under the auspices of the New Fortress Energy group.
Tied up in planning disputes for some time, it is envisioned that the investment will pick up the slack for intermittent renewable energy supplies through a 600Mw power plant and LNG storage terminal. Four kilometres west of Tarbet, the terminal itself will consist of a deep water jetty, four giant storage tanks and regasification facilities.
Expected to be shipped in by gigantic US trawlers, the Tánaiste met with developers of the New Fortress Energy site, with some open discord on the issue with coalition partners in the Green Party.
With the North ploughing ahead with a similar project at Islandmagee in Antrim, the rest of Europe is moving on with plans to augment gas storage, indicating how dire the situation is. Croatia, heavily dependent on Russian gas, has overturned bans on LNG infrastructure construction, turning the corner on years of near-zero storage capacity.
The subject of a week-long and media saturated climate camp, objectors to the plans point to a looming climate disaster and Ireland’s emissions commitments, as well as the ethics of importing fracked gas.
With assurances that the facility could potentially be converted into hydrogen storage in years to come, Irish citizens are right to be cynical towards these projects after a century of cronyism and poor deals which have robbed the nation of the spoils of the energy industry.
Very little salvation can be found at the mercy of American oil companies but surely a third option exists rather than green-induced poverty?
Geopolitically this move is to the benefit of the United States, binding us and the rest of Europe to fracked imports, as green edicts prevent the Continent from attaining energy autonomy. A legacy of Gaullism is that France’s nuclear powered energy independence enables it to pursue its own geostrategic interests, partially liberated from both Moscow and Washington.
Regardless, our immediate term objectives require gas storage facilities, warts and all, if we wish to keep any semblance of our modern lives going in the months and years ahead.
The Left may performatively condemn energy spikes and price gouging by energy barons, but their work has done much to enshine scarcity into the energy market. The most equitable outlook towards a progressive energy policy must be the utilisation of Irish energy resources, climate mania be damned.
With ample hydrocarbon reserves lying off our western and southern seaboard, Ireland is in a strong position should it break from the pack and develop its own resources as per the Norwegian model. The ingredient that the Norwegians have that we don’t is sovereignty and a competent national elite.
A nationalistic government could seize the opportunity and use this newfound leverage by tapping into these resources and give the country substantial breathing space in Brussels and elsewhere.
With no sign of a detente with the Kremlin coming anytime soon, we could become a powerhouse of Europe instead of merely a EU/Anglo-American dependency.
Ignoring the fact that the Dublin Government has already conceded on most issues, how will any future negotiations towards a united Ireland go with the Republic tethered to British energy imports?
The road is clear on energy security if we take the initiative to use it. Our frameworks of thinking and special interests lock us into a binary which pits the debate solely between American executives on the one hand, and hippies trying to drag our economy into the stone age on the other.
Let the learning curve be harsh this winter and maybe from the wreckage we can learn to pursue national interest over neoliberal inertia and green stagnation. At present we are the European rabbit in the headlights for the looming energy catastrophe.