New book exposes story behind Ireland’s gas and oil
With estimates of a ‘potential of at least ten billion barrels of oil equivalent’ (oil or gas) said to exist offshore and onshore Ireland, questions about who owns and benefits from Ireland’s resources have arisen in recent years. The prolonged Corrib gas conflict and allegations of a ‘gas giveaway’ have also prompted many people to inform themselves about Ireland’s gas and oil.
Dr Amanda Slevin became interested in Irish hydrocarbons when the Rossport Five were jailed in 2005. Amanda’s academic and community activist background led her to question how and why the Corrib gas dispute emerged and what role the Irish state played in the evolution of the conflict. Informed by her PhD research, Amanda’s new book Gas, oil and the Irish state: Understanding the dynamics and conflicts of hydrocarbon management (Manchester University Press) gives insights to those pressing matters and offers the first comprehensive account of the Irish state and how it manages its resources.
Covering a period from 1957 to 2014, Gas, oil and the Irish state interprets the Corrib gas conflict as a microcosm of the Irish state’s approach to hydrocarbon management and provides a detailed study of decision-making and policy formation around Irish gas and oil. Drawing on academic research which included interviews with 30 key stakeholders (for example politicians, civil servants and activists supporting and opposing the Corrib gas project) Amanda analyses the state’s approach and its privatisation of state resources in exchange for very low rates of financial returns.
The evolution of the state’s approach is examined and contextualised globally through comparative research on other countries’ regimes for hydrocarbon management. When comparing international studies of fiscal systems for oil and gas production in 74 countries, Amanda found Ireland had the second lowest rate of return due to its 25% tax rate (1992 licensing terms). In stark contrast, over half of those countries demanded returns of over 70% with our neighbour Norway imposing a 78% tax rate and state participation in oil and gas activities.
Amanda argues Ireland can learn from those countries and create a new model of resource management that maximises benefits for Irish citizens as owners of the gas and oil. Indeed, the book’s final chapter provides a blueprint for an alternative approach to gas and oil management, describing the state’s current model as damaging and unsustainable for communities, the environment and Irish society.
Dr Amanda Slevin will be joined by Fintan O’Toole (Irish Times) and Prof. Kieran Allen (School of Sociology, UCD) to launch Gas, oil and the Irish state at 6pm in Hodges Figgis, Dawson Street onThursday 22 September. All are welcome to attend and contribute to public debate around the management of Ireland’s hydrocarbons.
 Wood Mackenzie (2014, p. 19). ‘Review of Ireland’s oil and gas fiscal system’. Available at http://www.dccae.gov.ie/