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Group welcomes ban on onshore hydraulic fracking in 2017. Leah Farrell

Saoirse McHugh The Shannon LNG should not be considered any further by the government

The Shannon natural gas terminal could lock us into further decades of fossil fuel reliance.

IN HER FORTNIGHTLY column for, Saoirse McHugh of the Green Party writes about what we can do as individuals in the face of climate chaos.  

The Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal has dominated my social media timelines this week, but the important issue hasn’t captured the amount of attention it  deserves.

The Shannon terminal would bring in large amounts of fracked shale gas from the US. Due to oil and gas companies being exempt from many environmental regulations in the US, fracking has caused horrific damage to communities.

Water can be contaminated, animals can die from ingesting this water and it can impact peoples’ health through exposure to toxic chemicals in the air and water. 

Thankfully fracking has been banned in the 26 counties in the Republic and hopefully that will eventually be the case in all 32 counties.

The reason it has been a big issue this past week is that Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton had the chance to remove it from a list of priority energy projects in the European Union. A project on this Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list is eligible for funding from a €30 billion fund. 

It has been confirmed by the government that it will be keeping it on this list. More fossil fuel infrastructure at this hour is unconscionable. 

Bruton also said the government would not be supporting a grant application for EU funding by the LNG project until a security of supply review was done and considered by the government. 

If this goes ahead, it would lock us into decades more of fossil fuel reliance – decades that we do not have to be weak on this issue.

US fracking boom

I was at a hearing last week on the necessity of fracked gas in our energy mix and the panel was unequivocal on several important points such as that Ireland does not require imports of US fracked gas to remain energy secure and that natural gas is not the transition fuel that gas companies advertise it to be.

At this hearing was an expert from Cornell University who specialises in the role methane plays in climate change. He was unwavering in saying that because of how methane acts in the atmosphere, it is a much more potent greenhouse gas.

Reducing methane emissions, he stated, could actually buy us a few years and ease the immediate pressure to decarbonise our economies.

The recent spike in atmospheric methane has been linked to the fracking boom in the USA. The country now has a glut of gas and is trying to create new markets for it.

I am not interested in the government’s hypocrisy on this whole climate breakdown issue. It is predictable and meaningless.

I am, however, interested in why they appear to be consistently siding with large corporations over the good of the people and the planet.

It seems to me that there is no other reason to go ahead with a project like this apart from to protect the financial health of fracking companies. The reckless disregard for the future is an insult to all of us.

It has been said thousands of times that if we are to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius no new fossil fuel infrastructure can be built, and yet here we are.

The only argument I have heard in favour of the Shannon LNG that is in any way credible relates to the jobs it would create. It is true that we need employment in the area, but putting a small amount of short-term jobs ahead of a habitable biosphere is the wrong thing to do. An LNG terminal is not the only option for work that we have.

I have spoken before about communities coming together to demand and build sustainable, equitable futures. As climate breakdown continues unchecked and Ireland fails on our emission targets, it is becoming increasingly clear that we will have to start creating our own futures.

These will involve food production, preparing for the eventuality of certain houses being uninhabitable due to their proximity to the sea or flood zones and exploring how every community can do their bit towards helping biodiversity thrive and making sure that no member of society is left behind.

Of course we need legislative change and leadership on these issues, but it would be wrong to wait. If this Shannon LNG plant goes ahead it will be a clear signal that the government does not care about climate breakdown and does not care about the communities it will affect. 

We must do what we can within our own communities. This might mean holding a meeting to imagine what the community will look like in 50 years or supporting local producers and farmers as they transition to a more resilient and community-responsive system.

It could involve setting aside a space for wildlife and recreation in your area, or developing a plan for steering the community environmentally and socially over the next few decades.

Across the country there are lots of positive groups already set up but the support that our government has given to fracking companies, ahead of all else, underlines the urgency with which we must engage.

Whether it is a big project or a small one doesn’t matter. What does matter is that until the government decides that avoiding total climate breakdown is more important than a US company’s profits, we have to take leadership upon ourselves and do so with kindness, compassion, and determination.


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