Archive for ‘News’

December 11th, 2013

Put Ireland’s Natural Resources in Trust for the People : Submisison to the Constitutional Convention

Submission to the Constitutional Reform Forum

4 December 2013

Smart Taxes Network


The Constitution does not reflect contemporary knowledge of the importance and role of the environment as the basis of enduring social and economic wellbeing.  It most serious flaw and oversight is that it permits the alienation of the Nation’s natural resources by the current generation of the people of Ireland by actions of the organs of the State against the interest of the common good of generations to come of the people of Ireland. 

It is extremely unlikely that the drafters of the Constitution supported the seriously depletion, degradation or permanently alienation i.e. sold to third parties of the nation’s natural resources to benefit only one generation of Irish people.  They lived in a time when resources appeared bountiful and whose use was severely constrained by the technologies of the day. 

This is not the world we now inhabit where the forces of technological change and financial power have overcome all obstacles to exploit both non-renewable and renewable natural resources.  Only the will of the people working through their democratic institutions can stand in the way of their capture by local or foreign elites.  It is vital that the value of our natural resources – our commons – is retained in our ownership and permanently protected in the Constitution to provide for the well being of future generations of Irish people.

Article 10 should be amended as follows

  1. All natural resources, including the air and all forms of potential energy, within the jurisdiction of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution and all royalties and franchises within that jurisdiction are held in Trust for the people of Ireland by the Statesubject to all estates and interests therein for the time being lawfully vested in any person or body.
  2. All land and all mines, minerals and waters which belonged to Saorstát Éireann immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution jurisdiction are held in Trust for the people of Ireland by the State to the same extent as they then belonged to Saorstát Éireann.
  3. Provision may be made by law for the management of the property which belongs to the State by virtue of this Article and for the control of the alienation, whether temporary or permanent, of that property.  This does not include the natural resources held in Trust by the State for the people of Ireland, which can never be alienated.
  4. Provision may also be made by law for the management of land, mines, minerals and waters acquired by the State after the coming into operation of this Constitution. and for the control of the alienation, whether temporary or permanent, of the land, mines, minerals and waters so acquired.

The Constitution does not clearly discriminate between public resources such as ports, hospitals and roads etc. and common resources created by nature.  It conflates revenue from economic activity such as income taxation, VAT, company taxes etc. with that of revenue from natural resources such as sale income, rents, fees etc. for the use of those resources.  It then puts all these mixed revenues into a single undiscriminating pot.  nIf the State is to properly perform its responsibility as Trustee of the natural resources for the people of Ireland, it must differentiate the revenues from natural resources from that derived from labour and capital.  Therefore Article 11 should be amended as follows; -


All revenues of the State except that arising from natural resources, subject to such exception as may be provided by law, form one fund, and shall be appropriated for the purposes and in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities determined and imposed by law.

The stricture of non-alienation does not mean that our non-renewable fossil fuel or mineral resources can never be developed and sold.  The difference will be that the revenue from such sales cannot be used for general government purposes but they must be invested in a ring-fenced fund such as the Norwegian Oil Fund or the Alaska Permanent Fund and managed prudently in trust for the people.  In other words, the natural resource may be transformed into another capital resource of equal value, if it is democratically decided to do so in a referendum, but it can’t be spent by the current generation to leave less for the next.

It might well be decided by the people that fossil fuel resources such as fracked natural gas is more valuable to current and future generations left stored in the rocks rather than converted into a national fund given its potential to destroy the atmosphere on which we vitally depend.

Renewable resources such as wind and wave energy could never be permanently or substantially alienated but must be used for the good of the people of Ireland.  Only after all need for such resources are fully met at home, could sale of the products of the renewable energy be considered such as in Top up and Spill arrangements into the electricity grid of the UK or other nation state.

Clean fresh water is only partly renewable and is increasingly scarce.  The revised Constitution as above will prevent any future government from alienating this natural resource from the ownership of the people of Ireland.  This will allay the fears of many people that charging for water use and treatment will lead to the privatisation of the resource.

These Constitutional amendments will prevent our natural resources from being used as collateral for borrowing by the State as it will have no right to do so in its role as trustee for the people of Ireland.  In the same way, 3rd parties such as the ECB, IMF and EU Commission or private hedge fund or sovereign fund could never demand the sale of our national common resources to satisfy a public financial debt.

Emer O’Siochru -  39 Windsor Road Dublin 6  –

June 26th, 2013

Colm McCarthy on the Economics of Irish Wind Farms

No commitment to wind export plan until a full analysis of the costs and subsidies is available:

Colm McCarthy, 22 June 2013, Farmers Journal

Community groups, particularly in the midlands, have been organising objections to further wind-farm developments, arguing that modern wind turbines are visually intrusive, damage wildlife and create noise pollution.

These are important matters but there is a more fundamental objection to further wind-farm development. Ireland already has substantial installed wind capacity and it is not obvious that there is an economic case for burdening the system with more.

Wind power is unreliable – intermittent generation produces power unpredictably. For every unit of wind capacity, a standby unit must be available, since the wind unit will generate power for only about one hour in three, and virtually the entire wind generation capacity can sometimes be idle.Since the availability of the wind units can be predicted accurately only for short periods ahead, standby must be constantly in readiness – this is costly.

The maximum demand on the Irish system, re- corded in 2010, was just over 5,040 megawatts. Demand has fallen since, and peak demand this year has been about 4,500 megawatts. Low demand (say at 6am on a Sunday during the summer) can be as little as 2,000 or so. There is already installed wind capacity approaching 1,800 megawatts, high relative to peak demand and actually too much to be used safely when demand is at the low end of the range.

The wind energy lobby has been remarkably successful in Ireland, where government has been persuaded to pursue high targets for wind penetration regardless of cost. Wind lobbyists appear to have succeeded in propagating the view that wind energy is not merely low on carbon emissions, which is true, but also cheap, which is not. Wind energy companies enjoy a price guarantee, whose cost falls on consumers who may not even be aware of its existence. This is a subsidy, plain and simple. But there are additional subsidies which are hidden.

The most significant of these is in the provision of grid capacity. Wind produces electricity over a dispersed geographic area, often in remote locations far from the centres of demand, requirration of the national grid. Ireland now has adequate power generation capacity in aggregate, about the only good side-effect of the economic downturn. There would be little need for continuing grid investment were it not for the expanding wind industry. The full costs are not picked up by the wind generator, as they should be, but are spread across all consumers. When the wind blows conventional units (gas or coal) must be switched off, to be ramped up again (sometimes at short notice) when the wind dies down. This is an and results in additional car- bon emissions as well as additional cost. This continual ‘cycling’ of units designed for continuous operation is likely to shorten their operational lives according to engineers, a further source of additional cost.

In recognition of the weak case for further wind capacity, given the adequacy of overall generation already in place, the wind lobby has turned its attention to the possibility of exporting intermittent energy to Britain and is seeking government backing for these plans. The various developments being promoted in the midlands are a part of this plan to ex- port power to Britain, where due to be retired over the next decade.

In June 2012 the Irish Academy of Engineering produced a detailed report on this issue, available on their website The report’s conclusion, 
in a nutshell, was that the government should do nothing in support of extra wind farms that would in- crease costs for Irish energy consumers or for the Irish consumers. Specifically, the Academy noted that: “At a time when capital for investment in Ireland is so scarce, it is critically important to minimise such investment in public infrastructure such as transmission. Given that the Irish government implicitly stands behind such investment by state- owned companies such as ESB and EirGrid, it must be realised that such investment competes directly with government investments in, for example, Irish health and education.” The Academy also notes that Scotland has substantial wind resources and the costs of transmission to the in England are likely to be markedly lower than the costs of serving this market from Ireland. If, as the Academy recommends, the would-be exporters have to meet these costs, their projects may not be bankable. That they are proceeding to spend large amounts of money in the midlands suggests that they do not expect to have to pay these costs.

The government apparently commissioned a report on these issues last year, but it has not yet been released. There should be no government commitments to any export plan until a full technical and economic analysis of costs and subsidies in the wind industry is available






July 23rd, 2012

Go ahead for eco visitor cottages and novel sewage system in Tipperary

North Tipperary County Council have just sent notice of grant of Planning Permission for a development of green visitor accommodation and services at Coumnageeha Eco Farm.  The development will include the renovation and extension of the existing old stone cottage, two new activity rooms, a new four bedroom cottage and a sauna, showers and laundry for 6 eco-dome tents.  The construction will pioneer a number of new technologies -

1: A draw-down whole-roof solar panel system, feeding space heat and hot water to all buildings

2: In-wall heating for the old stone cottage using low grade heat from the solar panels to minimise the need for high levels of insulation

3: In-wall heating for the service building which will be constructed from hemp-lime that will meet passive house standards with only 300mm thickness

4: Super insulated timber frame construction and robust heat recovery units for the new cottage that protects the structure from interstitial condensation.

The sewage system will demonstrate the first officially-sanctioned use of a Swedish designed vortex separator in Ireland.  This system separates solids from the waste water so that they can be composted safely in a two alternating chambers, while the liquid wastes go to a settling tank and vertical reed bed and polishing area.  The composted product  is a good fertilizer and soil conditioner for use on the orchard trees and hedgerows in the farm.