The Keane Edge by Brendan Patrick Keane
Gas question: why give Ireland's enormous wealth away? the Norweigan alternative
Posted on Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 01:25 PM
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- Bashing the Irish -- a break neck run down on Ireland's history of betrayal
- Stephen Fry to appear on Gaelic soap opera Ros na Rún
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The head of Ireland's energy department, John Mullins, warned in September that Irish people were being forced to decide between paying their mortgages or their heating bills. He lamented having to shut off gas connections all across the country in the middle of winter, but expected to do so anyway.
Ireland is set to experience another record cold winter this year, as it did last December when temperatures dove to their lowest level in 65 years.
Ironically, Ireland has plenty of natural gas to heat its population, and bring enormous wealth to the state. The irony is that Irish politicians do otherwise, preferring to sign away these profits to multinatinoal corporations.
Similarly, Israel has just made a discovery of natural gas off of its shores, much like the discovery off northwestern Ireland.
The Irish depositories of the Corrib Gas Field are said to be very pure, consisting of 97% methane and ethane, and very voluminous, estimated to measure as much as 1 trillion cubic feet of the stuff.
The value of this gas is estimated by one Irish group to be equal to €420,000,000,000, well above any IMF bailout figure.
The Israeli gas fields are named Dalit and Tamar, after their discoverer's granddaughters, and could contain 6 trillion cubic feet of gas.
A rabbi named Michael Melchior serves as a member of the Israeli Parliament and advocates using the nation's new wealth and energy to benefit more people than may be planned at present.
In an interview on the Economist website, Rabbi Melchior describes the Norwegian model for dealing with a nation's natural wealth.
"This is not a question of socialism against conservatism, this is a question of pure common sense or corruption. That's what it's about." Melchior said.
Once the Chief Rabbi of Norway, Melchior contrasts the Norwegain model to that adopted by banana republics. A banana republic is a "country" with a "leader" who ruins his nation (a group of people) by giving all their bananas away.
Melchior is the founder of the Israeli Civil Action Forum and he warns of "what's called in the economic language, the Dutch Disease." The theory holds that natural resource wealth can become a blessing that hurts other areas of a society, such as the manufacturing sector as happened to the Netherlands in the 1960s.
This he contrasts to the Norwegian Model, where natural resource wealth is re-invested into Norwegian society for the benefit of everyday people. The inclusion of ethics in national investment strategies goes to the heart of Rabbi Melchior's vision for Israel's newfound energy fields.
Melchior does not wish to deny companies that help Israel to exploit the gas reserves their profits, but is fighting to break through the sound-barrier of a massive campaign on behalf of the oil companies in both Israel and the United States which would justify them taking all of the profits.
Ireland is said to be among the most generous in terms of giving natural resource profits away. The story of how Ireland came to be this way begins in 1987 when Minister Ray Burke ended Ireland's claim to royalties on such resource exploitation. He was later jailed for corruption, but his law remains. Bertie Ahern advocated a similar and more damaging law in 1992.
The Irish campaign to reverse the laws that give Ireland's natural resources away is underway, as they are underway in Israel and other countries.
Many countries are turning to the Norwegian Model, because it's common sense.
Ireland has that opportunity, if the people realize the value of their national rights to natural resources, and claim them.