03 Jun 09 Eddie's Blog Ireland

Why the Lisbon Treaty?

In the second last blog we showed how the expectations of populations differed according to their size. In bigger populations the people expect their public representatives to deliver on policy issues whereas in small populations like Ireland there is a higher emphasis on service to the voter.

In places like Ireland, Switzerland and Norway there is a greater feeling of intimacy and referenda are used to decide on policy issues.

In Ireland public representatives deal with issues of local interest to their constituents. We also talked about the emergence of a stable trading Europe which provided for safety and security for all our families in a family of mutually respectful nations.

So why the Lisbon Treaty?

In a formal sense, Europe has no right to write Directives or law on matters concerning energy. Energy was the prerogative of individual member states and was more or less jealously guarded until quite recently. The reality of oil shortages and gas constraints began to bite about four or five years ago. The price of oil began to move from its steady twelve to eighteen dollars a barrel, a position it had adopted for eighteen years to a curve rising steadily upwards. It peaked at $147 a barrel in July 2008.

Other fossil energy prices moved in tandem with oil, i.e. coal and gas. The barrel of liquid oil is now used as the marker which sets the price for everything, including CO2 emissions.

Lest we forget just how precarious our supplies of energy were, Vladimir Putin arranged to have the gas turned off in two out of the last three Januaries, i.e. just at peak yearly gas demand.

Europe and the world have massive problems with over reliance on fossil fuels.

They are expensive, they are extremely volatile, they pollute the atmosphere and change the climate. They heighten tension between nations and trading blocks. On a lighter note the shortage of fossil fuels gives rise to science fiction like dreaming on the part of some energy policy makers.

The world has spent a fortune on taming nuclear fusion; fuel cells have come and are nearly gone. They hydrogen economy is still whispered about; the latest imposition by the coal and oil industry is carbon capture and storage (CCS). Vast sums of money will be wasted before the silver bullet of CCS is seen to be made of lead.

The Lisbon Treaty empowers the organs of Europe, the Parliament, the Commission and the Council of Ministers to draw up common legislation to allow Europe become energy independent as well as reducing our CO2 emission by 80% from their 1990 levels.

Using the Lisbon Treaty, Europe will be empowered to draw up legislation which will create a European wide market in electricity. Monopoly suppliers of electricity are still allowed to hide behind national and regional boundaries.

These utilities are not companies in the normal sense; the risks of escalating fossil fuels are passed on to the customer by regulators who are complicit. When British Energy got in trouble it was taken over by the British Government.

Our argument has constantly been that if the private sector is good enough to provide food for the world and to look after its housing and security needs, then it should also be entrusted with the job of supplying us with competitive electricity.

The Lisbon Treaty specifically gives the organs of power within the EU the ability to allow nations to come together in a friendly legal arrangement to deal with the energy crises.

Europe needs to go to sea to find the wind energy it needs to power its industries and its homes.

Europe needs vast new grids to carry offshore wind power from the periphery where the resources are to the centre where the people are. Europe needs a common regulatory framework to prevent local monopolies interfering with the free movement of electricity.

Europe needs to build the Supergrid and it also needs to provide a framework for its building. This framework includes an offshore transmission system operator and a common regulatory framework.

The Lisbon Treaty removes any doubt about Europe’s ability to intervene in the greatest crisis facing us.

Due to the purchasing power of 480m people we have probably been rendered immune from absolute fuel shortages.

I read that the people of Chad are not so lucky.

Without Lisbon we the nations of Europe are not empowered to deliver on the great promise of the previous 50 years.