EPA FRACKING STUDY HAS MAJOR FLAWS

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Aedín McLoughlin hands Submission to Hildegarde Naughten TD, chairperson of Oireachtas committee

GEAI submission to Oireachtas Committee.

GEAI has made a major submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Climate Action and Communications on the EPA-commissioned Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE) Joint Research Programme.  This Study had as its major research question: “Can UGEE be carried out while protecting the environment and human health?”

Conclusions do not reflect findings

We have discovered that the overall summary report did not reflect the findings of the five research reports, which more correctly should have highlighted that:

  • UGEE (fracking) operations globally have major impacts on the environment and on human health, but as human health was not included in the Terms of Reference for the study, the impact of fracking on human health was not included in the study.
  • There are several unknowns around the process of fracking globally and it is not possible to guarantee that hydraulic fracturing can be carried out without contamination of groundwater and air.
  • The hydrogeological profile of the Northwest Carboniferous Basin (mainly Leitrim and Fermanagh) is heavily faulted with deep-seated aquifers and shallow shales, which makes it unsuitable for fracking.

Summary Submission

Full Submission

Climate Change – Threat or Opportunity?

Climate Change – a historical landmark?

Climate change is undeniably one of the hottest topics of today. It is widely seen as a major threat to the future of humanity and the planet. However, if we look at it from a different perspective, it can also be a historical landmark. Climate change presents an opportunity for societies to re-invent themselves.

The Paris agreement – a moment of unprecedented consensus
paris_agreement

The Paris agreement was ratified globally on 4th November 2016.

The Paris agreement achieved something remarkable. It was the first time that more than 190 countries agreed to a common framework. This is the acknowledgment of climate change as a global issue, to a point where the political representatives of almost all the greenhouse gas emitters in the world pledged to reduce their emissions. The most important thing that one can take from it is that this agreement opens the door to a future of total collaboration between the nations, in order to tackle such an important issue as climate change. This can be the opportunity for humanity to get together and engage in a dialogue that can take us in the right direction, a direction of re-invention towards a more sustainable future.

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy – Former president of the United States

Living examples of sustainability?

The effectiveness of the Paris Agreement pledges may be arguable, and the ambitions are not very high but, still, this agreement is something unprecedented. Even despite the fact that some of the bigger nations might feel tempted to withdraw from the agreement, if we look at the smaller developing nations, we can see that they have a lot of potential of becoming living examples of sustainability. As John F. Kennedy (JFK), once said: “The humblest nation of the world, when clad in an armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of Error.”

For the developed nations, the transition to renewable energies may seem more difficult because these countries are already endowed with a whole set of infrastructures that rely on fossil fuels, whereas in most developing countries, the infrastructure is still not there. This means that sustainable infrastructures can be built from scratch and that an efficient renewable energy grid could attend to the needs of a growing population.

“Cape of Good Hope”

During the 15th century Portugal, “brought new worlds to the world”, by exploring parts of the globe that were, at that point, still unexplored by the Europeans. The Portuguese navigators were seeking for the route to India but faced numerous challenges throughout the way. Their biggest challenge was a rocky headland, situated on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. They used to call it the “Cape of Storms”, for the many storms the navigators had to face when crossing this cape. After Bartolomeu Dias crossed this cape for the first time, the king of Portugal, D. João II, decided to rename the cape as “The cape of good hope”because it symbolized a new hope for the much-desired discovery of the route to India.

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The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

At the present moment, climate change may appear to be a “cape of storms” for us, but, if the nations collaborate and the right efforts are made, it has the potential to become the new “cape of good hope”. It can help us make our way to a more peaceful, prosperous, sustainable and united world.

This piece could not be finished without another JFK quotation:

“The problems of this world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, where horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

Alex

Is Carbon Tax a solution for our emissions problems?

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What is Carbon Tax?

A carbon tax is a form of carbon pricing by taxing fuels that contain carbon. Every hydrocarbon fuel (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) contains carbon which is released as carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, once these fuels are burned. A number of countries have implemented carbon taxes or energy taxes that are related to carbon content. Most environmentally related taxes with implications for greenhouse gas emissions are levied on energy products and motor vehicles, rather than on CO2 emissions directly.

From a theoretical economic perspective, carbon taxes help to address the problem of emitters of greenhouse gases by making them pay the so called “social cost” of their actions. However, carbon taxes can be viewed as regressive taxes, in that they may directly or indirectly affect low-income groups disproportionately.

“Raising prices reduces demand”

mankiw500wideAccording to Gregory Mankiw, Professor of Economics at Harvard University, who was featured in the newest NatGeo documentary “Before the Flood”, lesson number 1 of Economics is “if there is a tax that raises the price of some product/service, people will tend to consume less of it”. Mankiw, who has worked with former Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney and John McCain and with the Bush administration, uses this argument as a justification for the implementation of a carbon tax. According to estimations, by 2060, climate change will have cost a total of $44 Trillion USD and the professor’s view is that this tax could help tackling global change by dodging people into the direction of doing the right choices and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Carbon tax may not be the answer

But is Mankiw correct? …In my opinion, carbon tax may not be the solution to the climate crisis we are facing today and will face throughout the rest of this century, and to justify my disbelief I will give two reasons.

First, Carbon tax is relying on the same sort of beliefs as trickle-down economics and Keynesian policies, which is that economics can predict exactly the behavior of the masses, thus regarding people as discrete, easily predictable parameters. The problem with carbon tax is that the consequences may not be that easy to predict, thus undermining the feasibility of such assumptions, as they often fail to consider factors that lead to completely different outcomes in the public’s behavior.

The goal of this kind of mitigation policy is to catalyze the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, in particular with regard to vehicles and heating. What carbon tax would do is to put the financial burden of climate change on citizen’s wallets, thus putting people in an even tighter stranglehold through yet another tax, slashing their purchase power.

A vicious cycle

carsIf carbon tax is imposed, I am concerned that people won’t be able to afford to switch to carbon free energy sources and transportation due to scarcity and uncompetitive prices. Then the vicious cycle begins: people who have less purchase power will be obliged to pay the carbon tax and their purchase power will be reduced even further.

industryAdditionally, carbon tax applied on industries may not drive those industries to adopt low carbon technologies, due to the fact that they could easily dodge such tax by increasing prices and then the consumers would be the ones absorbing all the impact. Another weakness of the carbon tax is that it doesn’t necessarily imply a reduction of carbon emissions but rather allows governments to “make a profit” out of it, as it derives income from taxes.

There is now the urgent need to cut carbon emissions in order to meet the Paris agreement goals of a 1.5ºC warming. Therefore, one can use Ronal Reagan’s own words to say “Carbon tax is not the solution, it is part of the problem”.2

Alternatives to carbon tax

There are a number of ways in which we could tackle carbon emissions more effectively and none of them requires increasing taxes on the working people, for example:

  • Having an efficient, high-quality public transport network with affordable ticket prices,
  • Subsidizing electric vehicles, making them more affordable,
  • Or even banning carbon emitting energy sources and vehicles from the market, the most extreme but also the most effective measure.

In this scenario, with the absence of carbon emitting energy sources on the market, people will switch to clean (renewable) energies and we would finally be in a position where our targets could be achieved.

Let’s look at asbestos as an example: the use of asbestos is forbidden since it poses a major threat to public health; no one can even buy asbestos to use as a construction material. This solves the asbestos problem and we no longer have to worry about the occupational health and safety of people as to what exposure to asbestos concerns. Now, if we adopt the same position towards dirty energy sources and vehicles, we could finally take the step that needs to be taken and open the door to a carbon-free future.

Alex

Victory! GEAI welcomes passing of anti-fracking Bill

celebrating-tonys-bill

Toasting the success of the Campaign

 

GEAI’s Finest Hour

Last Thursday, history was made in Ireland!  A Bill to prohibit exploration and extraction of Petroleum from shale, tight sands and coal seams was brought before the members of the Oireachtas who unanimously supported the Bill and agreed to bring it to the next stage (the committee stage) of the process towards becoming law.  This Bill, when enacted, will act as a comprehensive ban on fracking, which is its primary objective.  The campaign against fracking has won a significant victory and has proved that fracking is not wanted in Ireland and that opposition to fracking comes from every party in the Dáil and from every province in Ireland.

GEAI indeed has cause to celebrate.  It is five years since Good Energies Alliance Ireland was formed to join the campaign against fracking in Ireland.  Since then, we have constantly lobbied, politically and though the media, to raise awareness of the harms resulting from fracking and to influence decision-makers locally and nationally to impose a ban on this dirty industry.  We have been involved at every level – local, regional and national – at community level as well as at political and academic.

“Stop the Study” – the Turning Point

Rally 6A turning point in the campaign was last year’s “Stop the Study” campaign, where GEAI spear-headed the drive against allowing the implementation of on-the-ground studies of the suitability of land in Fermanagh and Leitrim for fracking.  As a result of the joint action by campaigners, which included:

  • research into the facts surrounding the implementation of the study
  • an intense social media drive and lobbying of Oireachtas members,
  • public meetings,
  • a rally in front of Leinster House,
  • a presentation to all members inside the House,
  • briefing of all TDs,
  • special briefing of members of the relevant Joint Oireachtas Committee

enough pressure was brought to bear on Government to cause the ground studies to be cancelled and the study to be confined to desktop studies. (This study in now imminent.)

Cross-party support for Tony’s Bill

tony-back-the-billThe issue of Fracking had now become national!  This paved the way for the introduction of no less than three Private Members Bills proposing to ban fracking into which GEAI had input.  These went into a “lottery” and Tony McLoughlin’s Bill was drawn this month. A frenzy of campaigning started by GEAI, Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth and other organisations.  Last Thursday saw the culmination of all of this effort – a Bill that sought to prohibit the process of fracking was supported by every party in the Dáil and by every TD who spoke during the debate on 27th October.

“After five years of continuous campaigning against fracking, all the organisations involved in our campaign  can celebrate a huge milestone.  To have such unanimous support for this Bill is an incredible achievement for local communities threatened with fracking.  It shows the strength of the united people’s voice backed with the tools of advocacy and social media.  We thank everyone involved and especially Tony McLoughlin TD who brought the bill forward and fought against an amendment that would have delayed the debate.  We are delighted that one of our Directors, Eddie Mitchell, was responsible for the wording of the Bill, together with Kate Ruddock from Friends of the Earth.”
(Aedín McLoughlin, Director GEAI)

A word of warning – we are not there yet!

However, the destination has still not been reached. The EPA report is due to be published and we don’t know what this will say about fracking and what influence it will have on government policy; there are legal issues to be addressed and the Bill can be watered down as it goes through committee stage. We will be vigilant and watch carefully to make sure that what the Dáil clearly wants actually happens – a complete and permanent ban on fracking throughout Ireland.

But – today we celebrate our finest hour together with our friends nationally and internationally who, with us, want fracking to be banned throughout the world!

Ireland begins ratification of Paris Agreement

Minister for Communications, Climflood-denis-naughtenate Action and Environment Denis Naughten T.D., has secured Cabinet approval that will start the process for the ratification of the Paris Agreement for Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The Government has today (18 October) agreed to seek the approval of Dáil Éireann under Article 29 of our Constitution which states that prior approval of Dáil Éireann is required in order to ratify an international treaty.

 Minister Naughten said “Climate change is the defining challenge of our time and it is during our time that the obligation exists for us as a nation to take action. This obligation is as much an opportunity as it is an obligation.  Securing Cabinet approval today, which will allow me to proceed to seek Dáil Éireann approval, is a significant step and a strong signal to the people of Ireland and to the international community of our continued support for the Paris Agreement. The wave of global momentum behind the ratification of the Paris Agreement has been unprecedented. It is our children’s future and of vital national interest. I am seeking full support from all members of Dáil Éireann to facilitate its passage and ratify it before the next session of the ‘Conference of the Parties, COP22’ which will be held in Marrakesh from 7 to 18 November 2016.”

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