Oil. Dark greasy stuff, looks silly when applied to guys’ heads to make their hair stand up a la Jedward. On TV it’s what makes the Ewings run in the remake of Dallas. In real life it’s a source of energy and a source of strife.
Latest source of oil and controversy is said to be lying six kilometres off the coast in Dalkey, Co Dublin. Yes, that Dalkey - the one where celeb people and writers and artists live. You think they’re going to take oil-drilling and maybe oil-bringing-ashore lying down? No chance. Not in their back yard. But of course they dress it up as being concern for the environment and the Irish people. One spokesman for the group Dublin Bay Concern says that the government’s licensing system allows companies to extract “100 per cent of resources and pay no royalties”. Eddie Hobbs, who has made a nice living wearing pink shirts and denouncing the rip-off Republic, says there’s no requirement for the oil companies to bring the oil on-shore or generate jobs. According to him, the the twenty-six counties’ licensing regime comes second-worst in the world. The oil people called Providence (what a nice name) say that “up to 40% of profits from production would accrue to the State”, not to mention loadsajobs. A Dublin Bay Concern person says yeah, corporate tax of 25% rising to 40% would be paid but would be written off against the cost of drilling.
It’s kind of exciting to think of Ireland being rich in oil and/or gas (remember that big gas resource underground in Leitrim/Fermanagh?) but as with all such things, it’s how they’re handled that matters. Ask the Shell-to-Sea people in the west of Ireland what they think of oil companies; several of their number have been to jail because they’ve tried to stop Shell doing what it wants. The residents of Leitrim and Fermanagh are nervous that the environmental price in extracting gas will be catastrophic for the environment.
It’s a bit like the US’s role in the world. When it intervenes in countries, it says it does so for the welfare and prosperity of that country’s citizens. There’s truth in that, but only a fool would believe that the US goes in there solely for the good of that country’s people. It weighs the balance and only when it finds that there’s a big plus on the US side of things do they commit companies and resources, with of course military back-up. Likewise the oil exploration companies. They couldn’t care less if Ireland sinks beneath the Atlantic waves, providing they make a massive profit and it doesn’t impair their potential to make a massive profit at the next impoverished stop-off country they target.
Shell-to-Sea have had very little success in putting manners on Shell; maybe the more well-heeled and articulate denizens of Dalkey will have better luck. But the tide of oil history is very much against them.