By William Hederman
[Article published on Broadsheet.ie on 4th October 2012]
“We’re going to be rich” That was one response on Twitter last night to the news that Providence Resources has been granted a licence to drill for oil less than 10km from Dalkey Island. While more and more people understand that it is private companies rather than Ireland that will get rich from oil and gas discoveries here, there is still a stunning level of ignorance around this topic. Much of this comes from politicians and journalists.
Providence is controlled by Tony O’Reilly and family, who own about half of our news media, so you might expect coverage of the Dalkey drill to be better informed. When Providence applied for the foreshore licence last January, one newspaper quoted a Dún Laoghaire businessman saying the project “could be a good for morale and a boost for the business community”.
If Providence does find oil beside Dalkey, the only morale boost the business community will get is by admiring the rigs and tankers from the shore. Last year Providence explained to me that they would load the oil into tankers at the rig and probably ship it directly to a refinery in Britain or Holland.
There would be no jobs or investment onshore. The workers on the rig will fly in from Scotland and elsewhere. The fact that the oil is unlikely to be supplied to the Irish market nullifies the “security of supply” argument. And of course, oil finds will not reduce the price of petrol here. So let’s desist with the Dallas analogies please, newsdesks.
The only guaranteed benefit to Ireland is the 25% corporation tax rate on profits. However – and this is where the industry’s lobbying of Ray Burke 25 years ago really paid off – when calculating profits from the sale of our oil, Providence can write off the costs of all exploration anywhere in Irish waters in the previous 25 years.
The likely result of such tax write-offs is illustrated by a private study conducted for Shell in 2003. It projected that the Corrib project would pay just €340 million in tax over its lifetime, this from a field that is now valued at up to €13 billion. (At the time of the study, the field was worth considerably less, but I estimate that €340 represented around 7% of the revenue Shell would generate by selling Irish gas back to the Irish consumer).
Economically, our oil fields might as well be in the South Pacific, but environmentally, the Dalkey drill is frighteningly close to the shore – much closer than would be allowed in other European countries.
Providence’s own Oil Spill Contingency Plan shows that a spill could reach the shores of Dublin in one hour. This drilling is in shallow water, with fast currents, hundreds of marine and bird species, next to Dublin’s greatest amenity: Dublin Bay. All being put at risk to show that Ireland is open for business, even though that business will hardly benefit us.