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Emerald Isle to go green: Irish PM

by Staff Writers
Dublin (AFP) March 6, 2008
The Irish government unveiled a series of multi-million euro (pound, dollar) policy initiatives Thursday as part of a plan to make the Emerald Isle a more environmentally sustainable economy.

"We are uniquely placed to secure our economic future by marking ourselves out as a centre of the global green energy boom. This is the decision we have taken as government," Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said.

Speaking at a sustainable energy conference and flanked by seven ministers who each announced a range of plans, Ahern said new, cleaner energy provided job creation and inward investment opportunities for the Irish economy.

Plans include a 200-million-euro (304-million-dollar) energy-related research programme, encouragement for farmers to grow energy crops and greater use of biofuels for a national sustainable travel and transport system.

"We want to take a direct, interactive approach to inform future government actions so that Ireland becomes a leading low carbon economy," said Ahern, whose ruling three-party coalition includes three Green Party ministers.

"Our incentive to tackle the climate change challenge is all the greater because the actions we need to take will also protect our economy from future oil and gas supply shocks."

Action is needed because currently 90 percent of Ireland's energy comes from imported fossil fuels compared to an average import figure of 65 percent for other European Union countries.

Ireland has no nuclear power and about 60 percent of energy comes from imported oil.

"We are using 165,000 barrels of oil each day, which is some 10 pints of oil for every man, woman and child each and every day of the year," Ahern said.

"We have to prepare now for a future when conventional oil supplies start to contract rather than continue to expand."

Just as Ireland enjoyed a boom in the 1990s by opening up its economy, now it had to make a fresh change to a low carbon economy, he added.

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