‘No one’s talking about emissions from airplanes’

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has stated that if the country is serious about tackling carbon emissions “airplanes should be grounded”.

Speaking tonight (Thursday, November 1) on episode nine of FarmLand, the TD who represents the Galway-Roscommon constituency joined Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Green Party, in a discussion on how rural indigenous industries are being impacted by efforts to meet the country’s carbon emission reduction and renewable energy targets.

Under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision targets, Ireland has agreed to deliver a 20% reduction in non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions, on 2005 levels, by 2020.

Non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions (non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector) include: agriculture; transport; residential; commercial; waste; and the non-energy intensive industry.

Earlier this year, Ireland also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions level by 30% on 2005 levels by 2030.

Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009) Ireland is also committed to producing at least 16% of all energy consumed in the Republic from renewable sources by 2020.

If you want to talk about this whole carbon situation in Ireland, and indeed the world, no one is talking about the amount of emissions that planes are putting out.

“Some of these people want to get rid of all the livestock in Ireland and to cut down on this, that, and the other, but why aren’t we talking about emissions from planes?

“We should ground them if we need to. Don’t be going on your holidays if that’s the case, if we’re doing so much damage,” he said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 3%-4% by 2020; and 6%-7% by 2030 on current levels.

In some quarters it has been claimed that this rise is linked to the expansion of stocking rates, particularly for the dairy herd.

However, Teagasc’s Brendan Horan recently highlighted that the current dairy herd is effectively the same size as 1988 – just shy of 1.4 million dairy cows.

Biomass conundrum

Speaking just days after Bord na Mona’s unexpected announcement that it plans to completely stop peat harvesting in 2025 – five years ahead of its initial deadline of 2030 – as part of its latest decarbonisation agenda, Fitzmaurice contends that the future vision for the semi-state company is “not realistic”.

He also warned that Bord na Mona’s decision to cease peat harvesting in 2025 could potentially put the country’s fuel security at risk.

The company has confirmed that peat volumes to ESB will decline by approximately 50% from December 2019, when West Offaly Power Station (Shannonbridge) and Lough Ree Power Station (Lanesborough, Co. Longford) are no longer supported by the PSO subsidy and must co-fire with biomass to continue to operate.

Currently BNM is successfully co-fuelling its own power station at Edenderry, Co. Offaly, with peat and biomass. To date the co-fuelling has cut its annual carbon emissions by 40%.

However, Fitzmaurice is of the view that biomass is “not a sustainable option” for the power plants.

BNM has projected that its biomass demand from 2020 onwards will be an estimated 1.5 million tonnes.

The company has stated that the considerable increase in biomass volume will require imports to close the supply gap in the short-to-medium term.

It claims that maintaining a stable biomass supply is vital to supporting jobs in the peat business and across the midlands economy.

“Over the last year, I’ve been to the fore in saying that it’s uneconomical growing biomass in this country.

We know there are 3,000ac being grown at the moment and we are aware that there is something like 500ac after being put back into agricultural land for the simple reason that the economics don’t stack up.

“The reality of it is, that because of the movements last week and the announcements, we are now bounced five years sooner than what Bord na Mona had envisaged.

“Next year we are going to have a million tonnes less of peat – that’s what we have agreed on – and what is going to replace it?

“We haven’t got a magic wand that is going to replace it over night and we are in trouble in the line of biomass because that is what the focus has been on,” Fitzmaurice said.

Fuel security

Fitzmaurice was also sceptical about the potential of wind powered generation.

We need fuel security in this country and we are now in danger. Where are we going for the next 10 years with making sure we have fuel security and making sure that we are not going to hit a bang?

“In my opinion we are sleepwalking into something. We are now this year at the peak of gas in Belmullet and in 2025 it is envisaged that that is gone.

“We don’t have a vision of what we are doing,” he warned.