"The government has relinquished control over the offshore areas of our industry. Norway was tough regarding oil companies from the start. You now have an almost embarrassingly large pension fund. The situation for Irish communities, however, is as in Ogoniland in Nigeria - oil is a curse,”
Below is a letter sent to the Irish Times regarding the Corrib Gas Giveaway however it didn't get published.
Daniel Sexton’s letter (16th December) clearly illustrates the prevailing neoliberal agenda which has underpinned decision making within the state, much to the detriment of the average Irish person. The claim that ‘exploration [for Irish gas and oil] should be facilitated and encouraged by every means possible’ is disturbing when one considers the extent to which the government has done this, resulting in no profits, no royalties, no state participation, no security of supply, and we also have to pay full market prices for our own natural resources. If these weren’t enough incentives for the oil and gas industry, companies can also offset their costs against a measly 25% tax rate, meaning they will pay little if any tax.
A 2007 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office compared 150 fiscal systems in over 60 countries and showed that Ireland had the 2nd lowest government take from gas and oil, after Cameroon. In 2008, industry expert Daniel Johnston published details of 45 fiscal systems which further demonstrated the lack of return to our country. Unsurprisingly, Ireland had the lowest government take; the second lowest rate was Peru with 40% government take. Interestingly only five countries required returns of less that 50%, with three countries (Venezuela, Libya and Iran) ensuring government take of over 90%.
As the country with some of the worst returns in the world, it is now time that we reclaim our natural resources to benefit our state. The DCENR estimates a potential 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent off the west coast of Ireland and with a value of over 500 billion euros, our country simply cannot afford to give away our gas and oil. Admittedly there are only three petroleum leases currently outstanding, but given that a range of companies hold 27 exploration licences, it is only a matter of time before there is significant gas and oil production off our coast – with little return to our country. And, as in the case of the Corrib gas project, the current government strategy of facilitating the interests of the oil and gas companies above well proven environmental, health and safety concerns, has been to the detriment of the community, campaigners and our country as a whole.
Irish gas and oil should be nationalised with the massive potential wealth used to restore our crumbling education and health sectors, to name only two areas being systematically destroyed through this recession and the consequent cutbacks.
Nationalising Irish hydrocarbons is a long overdue process and considering that over 77% of the world’s oil reserves are now held by national oil companies, we are way behind other countries. Critics may claim that Ireland cannot afford to do this, yet the government can spend billons bailing out banks? Furthermore, the Petroleum Affairs Division has carried out significant research into Irish hydrocarbons, demonstrating the necessary geological and technical knowledge for state-led production. By the way, for the princely sum of €25,000 you too can get your hands on one of these reports - if you’re with an oil company.
Renegotiating terms with existing petroleum lease holders is also necessary and they are not in a position to quibble much. The International Energy Agency recently stated that conventional oil production will peak in 2020, and oil and gas companies will soon be doing their utmost to get their hands on our hydrocarbons, and we have to ensure that the Irish state actually benefits. Enough bending over backwards for industry, the government needs to start putting our people and future generations first, and that begins with using our resources to rebuild and better our country.