One More Thing: Industry lobbyists plan to strike back at the slick campaign of Own Our Oil

Fergus Cahill, who chairs the Irish Offshore Operators Association, says companies go where the likelihood of making big discoveries is high and where the financial risk is lessened by government incentives. photograph: kristian helgesen/bloomberg

Fergus Cahill, who chairs the Irish Offshore Operators Association, says companies go where the likelihood of making big discoveries is high and where the financial risk is lessened by government incentives. photograph: kristian helgesen/bloomberg

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 01:10

They’re getting very strident on both sides of the oil/gas exploration debate as the review of licensing and fiscal terms ordered by Minister Pat Rabbitte gets under way.

Eddie Hobbs and his media-savvy Own Our Oil (Ooo) group, derived from the campaign to stop drilling off the coast of delicious Dalkey, have come tearing out of the traps with their new book calling for the State to seek a much greater share of the spoils from any future finds off the Irish coast.

Ooo, which is a bit like the Shell to Sea campaign in a three-piece suit, has been particularly pointed in its criticisms of the pro-industry brigade.

Hobbs has attracted the dismay of industry veteran Fergus Cahill, who chairs the Irish Offshore Operators Association, an industry lobby group.

Cahill, who joins the octogenarians’ ranks later this month, told me over tea in Buswell’s that the Ooos don’t know their Aaas from their... never mind.

“Ooo ignores the fact that the main driver of exploration is reduction of risk. Hence, companies go where the likelihood of making big discoveries is high and where the financial risk is lessened by government incentives. Ergo, Norway on both counts, Ireland on neither,” said Cahill.

He quite reasonably points out that something must change because the current Irish drilling rate of about one well each year is “pathetically low”.

Hobbs retorted that the industry in Ireland, and its “captive regulator” at the energy department, “lacks ambition, savvy and valour”. Ooo has stolen a march, he says, because it is “mainstream, informed and considered”.

Not like those hairy beasts down in Mayo, presumably.

Ooo raises some interesting arguments about just how much of any future spoils Ireland is prepared to try and capture. Hobbs says he has no faith in the review currently under way because its remit isn’t radical enough.

Ireland, he says, should have the “bottle” to set up a national oil company. This could all get very interesting.

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