the dangers of military secrecy, futility of oil
Clare people got an interesting insight into two important topics this weekend following public meetings in Ennis and Shannon.
The meetings addressed health and safety issues surrounding military use of airports and also an insight into huge changes in the world economy and fuel supplies, and what these two subjects mean for us locally.
The speakers were Henk van der Keur, of the Laka foundation based in the Netherlands, Richard Douthwaite, an economist with Feasta, and Greg Duff, Shannon Town Councillor.
Mr. van der Keur, gave a presentation about a plane crash in Amsterdam in 1992. It involved civilian cargo jet chartered by the military crashed in to the Bijlmermeer apartment complex in Amsterdam shortly after leaving Schiphol airport.
Four people on the 747 were killed along with dozens more on the ground.
After the crash, some parts of the aircaft went missing and the soil at the crash site was removed and replaced.
Residents of Bijlmermeer, emergency workers and even those involved in moving the aircraft parts and soil remediation all showed signs of auto-immune disease and radiation poisoning consistent with exposure to Depleted Uranium dust.
People began to question the official story about the cargo on board this jumbo jet.
Initially, the Dutch authorities covered up the truth about the crash, and it was not until 1999 that the Dutch government admitted that the aircraft had been carrying Depleted Uranium and ingredients for sarin gas for the Israeli military. The aircraft was not a military aircraft, but was chartered from EL- AL by the Israeli Defence Department which was using Schiphol airport on a regular basis.
There was a separate section of the airport used for these flights, and the cargo and flight schedules were kept secret even from local emergency services.
Mr.van de Keur also explained the use of Depleted Uranium in warfare and the effects that it has on human health.
-Councillor Greg Duff spoke about the lack of informed debate about the health and safety implications for Shannon workers and residents of transporting explosive and toxic weapons through Shannon airport.
Cllr Duff said that Shannon town council had received no information from Aer Rianta about weapons transports and there had been no sign of an update to the Major accident plan to take into account the possibility of an incident involving military hardware.
Cllr Duff said and there was a need for debate on the issue taking into account the safety implications for the workers and the residents of the area. He complained that most debate had been stifled by the myth that speaking up about these issues risked the jobs, at a time when the biggest jobs threat to Shannon Airport comes from Government's plans to break up Aer Rianta.
Richard Douthwaite spoke about the implications of declining supplies of
oil and gas supplies in the near future. He surprised many with forecasts that oil production is peaking and will go into steep decline in less than 10 years, with major implications for the world economy.
He stated that the basis of the Iraq war was oil, which the Bush administration needs to secure as the Saudi regime becomes less stable.
"The Saudis, controlling the world's largest oil reserves, have always acted as a swing producer, moderating prices when they went too low or too high. The capacity for that no longer exists, and the Saudi regime does not look likely to be around much longer" he told the audience "So the next best option was to instal a comliant regiime in Iraq, which has the world's second largest oil reserves. As oil gets more scarce we will see more competition and wars to control it."
Mr Douthwaite argued that the scramble for oil to drive economic growth is prioritising resources over moral and legal issues.
"Struggling to keep ahead in the oil economy is fighting yesterday's battle and will become less and less productive as oil becomes more scarce and more expensive. As energy prices begin to rise, the cost of energy to industry will become more important than labour costs, and Irish businesses could become uncompetitive.
If we continue to depend on dwindling oil supplies, this will leave us less time and resources to change over to an economy not dependant on fossil fuels."
Mr. Douthwaite urges us to 'get ahead of the curve' and make the change to renewable fuel sources before it becomes too expensive to do so.
Citing the example of wind power, he pointed out that Ireland has the 2nd largest potential for wind-power in Europe (after Scotland) and that off shore wind turbines, could cheaply produce 15 times more electricity than we currently use.
This would make Ireland energy independent and more competitive industrially. Ireland would be insulated from events like the oil crises of the 1970s and we would avoid the steep rises in energy costs to industry and homes.
Ireland could become a leader in developing and exporting wind turbine technology, as happened in Denmark.
Mr Douthwaite pointed out Clare already has a lot of people with the relevant skills in turbine technology and electricty generation, and what is needed is a pro-active attitude from government.
If we wait too long, then not only will we end up paying high prices for energy from oil and gas, but we will be paying to import renewable energy technologies from other countries.
The comprehensive and informative presentations were followed by lively question and answer sessions.