Guess who’s green in the Emerald Isle? Northern Ireland has just discovered that it’s sitting on shale gas reserves estimated to be the equivalent of about 1.5 billion barrels of oil worth £80 billion. But Phil Flanagan, the energy spokesman for Sinn Féin, said the government is being manipulated by greedy energy companies. He voiced his concerns to the BBC:
“What we actually need to see is a significant investment in renewable heat generation from governments and not some foolish effort to chase the last remaining stores of fossil fuels around the world, using non-conventional and dangerous methods of exploration.”
Of course, regulations need to be put in place to ensure that wastewater is disposed of properly, and environmental impact reports should be commissioned. But extracting natural gas—the cleanest-burning fossil fuel on earth—doesn’t preclude renewable energy investment. Green and brown energy are not mutually exclusive.
And just as the green concerns are misguided, it’s a mistake to assume shale gas will work for any given country just as it has in the U.S. The shale revolution is a global phenomenon, as deposits are being discovered everywhere from China to Australia to Europe. But extracting shale oil and gas is much harder than following the rainbow to a pot of gold. Much depends on local stratigraphy and access to capital. Northern Ireland ought to base its fracking decision on the facts, not preconceived ideas, whether anti-capitalist or energy-idealist.
Ironically, European greens’ obstruction of fracking for shale oil and gas has helped make the continent a coal sink. If Sinn Féin is truly committed to keeping Ireland green, it will push for exploratory drilling.
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