23 August 2001 Edition

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£1 billion gas giveaway


Has anyone seen £1.1 billion? It was lost last week by a careless coalition government. £1.1 billion is the net value placed on the Corrib gas field currently being developed by three international oil and gas exploration companies who convinced an ill informed Dublin government to sign away the rights for huge amounts of Ireland's deep sea mineral resources for essentially nothing.

The £1.1 billion is the first tangible measure of the value of the natural resources signed way. The Corrib is just the first field being developed commercially. As the companies explore more of the fields they have the rights to, the £1 billion plus revenue from Corrib might end up seeming fairly paltry.

So who is going to benefit from this money and who is going to pay? Well the winners are Enterprise Oil, Statoil and Marathon. The losers are the people of Ireland, who are going to have pay for the gas as domestic consumers.

In total, £1.5 billion of gas is estimated to be the current value of the Corrib field over the first 15 years of its life. Enterprise Oil has sold 60% of their share to Bord Gáis for £300 million. It is reckoned that the cost of bringing the field on stream will be in the order of £500 million. However, due to the fact that the 26 Counties have the most lax taxes on oil exploration companies in the world, this money is written off against profits.

The details of the contract between Enterprise Oil and Bord Gáis are confidential. Why hasn't it been explained?

What is clear is that we are finally beginning to get a real gauge of just how much money has been lost to the Irish people. It is lost not just in the fact that we will actually have to pay for something that was once ours, but it is also the lost hospital beds, new houses, extra teachers etc that £1 billion could have bought us. These could have been ours but they were lost by the shortsighted carelessness of a now forgotten Dublin government. One wonders what else of value has been discarded along the way. Anyone for the last few Eircom shares, going cheap?

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1