Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reassessing Biofuels

Biofuels a reassessment

Last week the Labour Party published its position paper on Biofuels. Along with the Labour Leader, Eamon Gilmore TD, I launched the paper in front of an audience of media and interested parties. Groups present included the Irish Bioenergy Association, Trocaire, Bord na Mona, Sustainable Energy Ireland, Birdwatach Ireland and the German-Irish Chamber of Commerce. A lively discussion followed and it was a worthwhile and interesting exercise. This is a really hot issue with growing concerns around the link between the recent dash to biofuels and the global food price hikes. However, our govenrment is silent on the issue which we find unacceptable.

Labour's position is as follows:

Labour recommends:

1. Information on traceability to be fully available. Currently biofuel data is too difficult, at times impossible, to access. EU rules and WTO rules need to be changed to provide full transparency on sources of biofuels.

2. Support for the 20% overall target as set by the EU Commission for CO² emissions reduction by 2020. (30% if global agreement achieved).

• The EU target of 10% biofuels to be reviewed, in view of the severe impact on food supplies in the developing world.

• For Ireland, the findings of the Environmental Committee of the EU Parliament to be adopted as an interim measure.

• Support for the indigenous Irish Biofuel industry in line with environmental and social sustainability criteria.

3. The Government’s Climate Change Strategy to be reviewed and updated.

• On transport, a greater emphasis on public transport and the electrification of vehicles.

• On agriculture policy, an emphasis on food security and encouragement of greater food production.

• On biofuels policy, support for sustainable biofuel production with a focus on the development of second generation biofuel production and the use of marginal land unsuitable for food production.

• On energy policy, an increase in target set from 33% to 42% for renewables for electricity generation by 2020.

To read the position paper please go to the Labour website or click here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Broadband woes

Lots of feedback on the broadband debate in the Dail that took place this week. Minister Ryan's lovely red map showing broadband cover in Ireland is turning out to be full of holes. The village of Shillelagh is a case in point but what struck me was the extend of the problem across rural Ireland.

The government needs to speed up on broadband in every sense. Less international talk shops that cost the taxpayer €50,000 and more plumbing is whats needed.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bellygrass and beyond!

Well, I've seen the future and its called bellygrass...

At yesterday's Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change a presentation given by Jerry Murphy of UCC had us all sitting up on our hind legs. He talked about biofuel and grass can be used to make gas for fuel. Since over 90% of Ireland's arable land is in grass this was significant. But what really got our questions coming was his explanation of how "bellygrass" is used in Europe for gas production for buses.

Bellygrass for those of us who don't know- and there are many - is found in cows and pigs slaughtered in our abattoirs.

Currently the bellygrass has to be carted away and spread on land and that costs the abattoir money.

In the future it can go to a digester system, converted to biofuel and used in buses etc..

While no-one has the solution to the problem of methane produced by belching cows, dead cows may provide part of the solution.

Or at least the grass in their stomachs. Don't they have four of them?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Unite 4 Our Planet Forum

Tackling Climate Change is the great challenge of our time. It requires leadership, co-operation and a clear direction.

We also need an integrated response. That's what we're doing in the Labour Party. The four TDs with responsibility for Energy, Environment, Transport and Agriculture have come together under the "Unite 4 Our Planet" initiative. We are pledging to work together across these areas and to engage with experts and the public to ensure we are in a position to meet the challenges of carbon reduction and climate "proofing".

To discuss this we have organised a Forum on Climate Change to be held this Saturday, 9th February in the Mansion House, Dublin. If you'd like to come along, please email

For more information, please check out the Labour website.