Dáil Éireann - Volume 372 - 27 May, 1987

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Government Conservation Policies.

59. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Energy the changes, if any, he intends in Government conservation policies in the light of the finding that the energy intensity of production is growing in Ireland while it is falling sharply in most western economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

48. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Energy in view of the evidence presented in the recent International Energy Agency Report on Ireland that the energy intensity of production has grown in Ireland by 4 per cent while it has fallen on average by 28 per cent in other member states the changes, if any, in Government conservation policy he intends making to confront this problem.

Mr. R. Burke: I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 48 together. I am not aware of any IEA report which shows a growth of energy intensity in Ireland of 4 per cent as compared with a drop of 28 per cent in other member states for a comparable period. The most recent IEA review of the energy policies and programmes of the member countries compiled in April 1987 lists the energy intensity of the member states on the basis of the total primary energy requirement — gross domestic product ratio which is the measurement used both by the IEA and the EC. The figures quoted for Ireland are 0.51 for 1973; 0.49 for 1979; 0.42 for 1984 and 0.46 for 1985. While that table indicates an increase in intensity of 4 per cent approximately between 1984 and 1985 there were increases also for six other countries. The corresponding change for all IEA countries between 1984 and 1985 was a reduction of 2 per cent approximately. A recent comparison made by the EC Commission for the period 1983-85 shows [2878] that the level of energy intensity fell more in Ireland than in any other EC country and there were increases in intensity in seven countries and in the EC as a whole. Because of statistical fluctuations in any particular year, it would be more accurate to make a comparison over a longer period. The average change in intensity specified for the period 1973 to 1985 for Ireland is a reduction of 1.3 per cent per annum which is almost the same as the average for all European countries. The corresponding energy intensity level for the IEA as a whole fell by 1.8 per cent per annum. The reduction in Ireland's energy intensity level, therefore, compares favourably with the other member states indicating that current conservation policies are proving effective. It must be borne in mind, too, that what can be achieved under this heading depends to a considerable degree on the nature and the level of the economic activities conducted within the state in question.

Mr. R. Bruton: My question was based on the IEA report of 1985 which found that Irish energy intensity has grown by 3.6 per cent while that of other IEA members has declined by 28 per cent. Can the Minister tell me whether the discrepancy between the figures he has given and what I have quoted is that he is not looking at industry? Does the Minister regard as adequate the reduced provision for conservation by his Department, from £685,000 in 1983 to £280,000 in the current Estimate. Is this amount adequate to meet the challenge implied by these figures and what are the Minister's plans for this area in 1988?

Mr. R. Burke: The Deputy seems to make a fundamental mistake in thinking that if you provide X amount of money in the Estimate you will get a certain quality of work and that if you reduce an allocation the quality of a service or of work would deteriorate. That is not the way it is. I can assure the Deputy that a very efficient programme is now being undertaken. I am reviewing that programme within the Department. The allocation [2879] for 1988 will be decided on at the time of the publication of the Estimates for that year. So far as the figures the Deputy has given are concerned, there can be variations. I am not disputing the figures he has quoted from the report but all I can say is that six other countries along with ourselves — Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom — showed an increase in the level of energy intensity in 1985 over 1984. All those countries pursue a very strong conservation programme.

Mr. Bruton: Is the Minister not clouding the central question in that Irish industry is basically energy inefficient and has become more so? May I take it from his earlier reply in regard to expenditure in his Department in this area, that he is rejecting the recommendation made by the IEA in that the way in which to approach this problem would be provide some fiscal incentives for conservation in industry?

Mr. R. Burke: Good management alone, with the concentration of an energy manager's mind on the potential for savings within his company and with direction from the Government, which they are now getting should be sufficient. That should encourage business generally to reduce their costs and energy accounts for a major portion of the costs within industry. I suggest that rather than throwing grants at industry it would be far better if they were to see how they could save money in their own businesses and to follow a policy directed by the Government.

Mr. R. Bruton: Is the Minister rejecting the IEA's recommendations?

Mr. R. Burke: I am saying that the money is not available to give grants.

Mr. Stagg: May I have your permission to raise a matter on the Adjournment? I tabled a Private Notice Question to the [2880] Minister for Labour and you have disallowed that question.

An Ceann Comhairle: That may not be raised now, Deputy.

Mr. Stagg: I am not raising the question, a Cheann Comhairle. In view of the urgent and pressing nature of the matter of the excesses of the Jobsearch scheme, of the discriminatory effects in particular which this scheme has on married women and the large element of coercion within the scheme——

An Ceann Comhairle: I take it that the Deputy wishes to raise this matter on the Adjournment and, if so, I will communicate with him.

Mr. Sheehan: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the serious situation in the fishing grounds off the south-west coast where Spanish boats operating under a flag of convenience are prohibiting Irish boats from availing of their right to fish in these lucrative grounds.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will communicate with Deputy Sheehan in respect of that matter.

Mr. Kavanagh: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the matter of radio and press reports to the effect that the Government are considering privatising school transport, a change which would put 1,118 jobs in jeopardy. I am anxious to ascertain whether those reports are correct.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. Allen: I attempted to raise a Private Notice Question in relation to the imminent strike by junior doctors in our hospital——

An Ceann Comhairle: That question has been disallowed, Deputy Allen, as you know.

Mr. Allen: In your reply you stated [2881] that I should submit a written question but as you know, if I did, the question would only come up on the eve of the strike which is going to cause chaos——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has ample time to put down an ordinary question. He may not raise the matter now.

Mr. Allen: A Cheann Comhairle, a written question is unsatisfactory and limiting——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy may not argue with the Chair.

Mr. Allen: I wish to raise the issue in the House. This is a major hospital——

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Allen must learn that he may not argue with the Chair. He must accept the ruling of the Chair.

Mr. Allen: I consider your ruling ill-judged in the circumstances.

Mr. Cullen: I wish to raise on the Adjournment the matter of the new airlines operating on the Dublin-Luton route. I am anxious to hear the details involved.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. McCoy: I wish to raise on the Adjournment a situation that has arisen whereby two fully blind students this year have been refused a choice of honours and pass papers in their leaving certificate. So far, the Department of Education have refused to give them the choice which is available to every other student in the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. Allen: I have a right to raise this issue in the House: fully qualified doctors——

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Allen [2882] has been making a point of challenging the Chair recently in such matters and if he persists I shall have to deal with him in the ordinary way.