The first phase of Mr Hobbs’s Own Our Oilcampaign was the launch of a book yesterday with the same title that aims to change the public’s attitude to Irish oil resources.
The book looks at Ireland’s geology, policy, taxation, history and planning when it comes to the oil industry and is dedicated to former minister Justin Keating who developed a strict taxation regime for Irish resources in the 70s.
The book is the first part of a campaign that is aiming to challenge the oil and gas industry in Ireland. Mr Hobbs warned that if the oil industry attempted to dismiss his campaign he would “take them apart”.
In the book, Mr Hobbs places a lot of emphasis on the difference in regimes between Ireland and Norway. Norway managed to build a sovereign wealth fund three times larger than Ireland’s national debt by effectively managing its natural resources.
However, the chairman of the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association, Fergus Cahill, said comparing the two countries is a fundamental mistake.
“Norway produce two million barrels of oil a day. We produce none. Norway exports natural gas, we import virtually all of ours. To compare the two is a fundamental mistake,” he said.
Mr Hobbs also drew parallels between the oil companies’ behaviour in Norway and Ireland. Mr Hobbs said that in the 1950s Norway was repeatedly told that there was no offshore oil in Norway.
Mr Cahill said that was what the companies believed at the time and it was only with improved technology that the Norweigian industry developed.
Mr Hobbs said they were not interested in trying to unpick any of the licensing options that are in place, but there was a need to try and maximise future returns from potential assets.
Up to a third of Ireland’s marine territory is already under licence from a period between the 1980s and 2007, when exploration terms signed ownership of various assets over to exploration companies, following then minister for energy Ray Burke’s dismantling of the tough taxation regime Justin Keating had put in place.
This means returns from these assets will disproportionately go to company shareholders and not the Irish taxpayer.