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Norway is laughing all the way to the bank

By: 
Martin Kenny

Sinn Fein County Councilor Martin Kenny has said that Ireland could do with learning some lessons from Norway as to how a Nation should explore and exploit its natural resources. Cllr Kenny was reacting to the news that the Norwegian Government has now become one of the biggest shareholders in Irish pharmaceutical company Elan. The stake holding is funded by the vast €230bn Norwegian State Sovereign Wealth Fund, a fund built up by the money acrued from North Sea oil and gas, while our Irish Government gave away the very same potential income, with a deal done behind closed doors by Fianna Fail Minister Ray Burke.
Cllr Kenny said “Norway's vast fund, one of the so-called "Super Seven" sovereign wealth funds, is the world's fourth largest, trailing those of Abu Dhabi, China and Saudi Arabia. The fund has been built up by revenues from Norway's gas and oil resources. Sovereign Wealth Funds are state-owned investment groups built up by the money acrued from North Sea oil and gas. It is expected that over the next few years due to its stake holding in the Corrib Gas field off mayo and other strategic investments that this major state fund will reach a value of well in excess of 300 billion euro. One must contrast the reckless management of Ireland’s oil and gas resources by successive governments with the prudent and astute manner in which the Norwegian Government have exploited their natural resources. The fact is our Irish Government gave away the very same potential income, with a deal done behind closed doors by the Fianna Fail Minister Ray Burke.”
“In this recession we are been told that everything is on the table for major cuts, health, education, social welfare and farming and increases in taxes and levies for workers and small business. But remarkably the oil and gas sector has escaped unscathed as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael pander to the every whim of the big corporations like Shell Oil. We have arrived at a situation where on the one hand the honest ordinary people are picking up the tab for the toxic debts of the developers and the Financial institutions, while on the other hand our Government are giving away all our oil and gas resources. Meanwhile the Norwegian Government is laughing all the way to the bank, as the revenue stream from the Corrib Gas field – which rightfully belongs to the Irish people – further swell the coffers of their massive state wealth fund.”
“Besides Corrib there is also massive potential in other areas off the Irish coast. For example there are estimates, including one from the Petroleum Affairs Division of the Minister’s Department that there are 10 billion barrels of oil lying off the west coast of Ireland, valued at over 500 Billion dollars at current prices. That is in addition to a natural gas reserve – estimated to be 50 trillion cubic feet – sufficient to supply the whole of Western Europe for many years.”
“And there’s more, 200 kilometres off the coast of Kerry is the Dunquin gas field which is estimated to contain 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 4,130 million barrels of oil. The gas alone would meet our gas needs – at present consumption levels – for the next 62 years.”
“Dunquin gas field is licensed to the Exxon Mobil Corporation, the parent of Esso and Mobil, Exxon Mobil is the world's second largest publicly traded company with oil reserves at the end of 2007 of 72 billion oil-equivalent barrels, and the company has 38 oil refineries in 21 countries constituting a combined daily refining capacity of 6.3 million barrels.”
“The estimate is that the Dunquin gas field will come on stream after 2013, but again no revenues will occur to the Irish exchequer from this, while at the same time ordinary people face increased taxes and levies and cuts in health and education services.”
“And there’s more, off the coast of Clare the Spanish Point field with known reserves of one and a quarter trillion cubic feet of gas and 206 million barrels of oil, valued at €30 billion. That is hoped to begin production in 2011 with the gas piped ashore.”
“The truth is this country will only fully benefit if the taxation and royalty regime is changed, to redress the terrible deal made, for whatever dubious reasons, in 1992 by Ray Burke. The present tax rates are extremely low and most of the current 25% tax on profits from oil and gas can be written-off against exploration and operating costs. Any objective analysis of this set up, clearly exposes it as a fix for the big corporations to walk away with all the profit and equally clear, is that people very well connected must have been paid millions, probably into secret bank accounts, while they attempt to discredit the protesters at Rossport as blocking progress, but the progress of whom.”
“It would be far more beneficial to the long term interests of this state, if we totally and completely nationalised our natural resources instead of bailing out our insolvent banks. Surly one would expect the leaders of the country would have realised this and acted on it, particularly in the context of the economic crisis, so the question is why they are not seeking to take revenue from these massive oil and gas fields.”
“Well the answer is because as a country, not only are we bankrupt but we are also leaderless and shackled with corruption at the highest level, with Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny lacking the moral courage and conviction to do what needs to be done, namely to assert the sovereignty of the Irish people in relation to the Country’s natural resources.” Stated Cllr Kenny.