Banning offshore drilling would hamper rural Irish economic development, Canadians warn

A ban on drilling for oil and gas in Irish waters would seriously hamper the chance to economically develop large parts of rural Ireland, an international business group has warned.

The Ireland-Canada Business Association (ICBA) - which counts among its members energy firms from both countries - has attacked proposed legislation targeting a ban on offshore drilling in Irish waters and has urged politicians to consider the challenges facing Ireland in securing its own energy supply.

People Before Profit's Climate Emergency Measures Bill is currently at committee stage in the Oireachtas and the party is confident of it being passed into law.

However, ICBA has echoed the Irish Offshore Operators' Association in arguing that the bill will have "little or no positive impact" on reducing Ireland's emissions and said it could result in Ireland becoming dependent on imported energy supplies "for decades to come".

If Ireland is forced into importing all of its gas needs from places like Russia, transportation and less efficient non-EU production would only increase the country's carbon footprint, it said.

ICBA said the passing of the bill into law would remove the opportunity for economic development of regional parts of Ireland, particularly along the western and southern coastlines. PwC has already estimated a single oil find in Irish waters could generate around 1,200 regional jobs per year.

ICBA also said Ireland's security of energy supply would be put at risk by a ban; the State would miss out on billions of euro in tax receipts - revenue, it said, which could help fund Ireland's transition to a lower carbon economy - and further inward investment would be jeopardised. It has been estimated that a single gas or oil discovery could deliver €11bn in tax receipts to the State.

"Preventing the commercialisation [of licences already awarded] will not only stop all exploration but likely does not strike the tone on attracting inward investment that Ireland prides itself on," ICBA said.

"In an era of immense geopolitical insecurity, Ireland's reliance on imported energy is unsustainable," it said.

The organisation's executive director Kate Hickey said it fully supports Ireland's move to a lower carbon economy, but said that will take time.

"Oil and, particularly, gas are an essential part of the transition and we believe that it is far preferable to source oil and gas through Ireland's indigenous sources," she said.

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