Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

£36bn for the economy? This could really work

Where to begin? The idea that there may be commercially viable quantities of crude oil within Northern Ireland's land territory holds so many possibilities that it's hard to know where to begin.

Firstly, is there really enough there?

Certainly there have been a few puny oil strikes throughout Northern Ireland over the last few years but they've only held enough potential to lubricate the chains on my bicycle.

But it seems this latest discovery by Providence Resources, a company which has risen from the shadows as something of a oil diviner over the last couple of years, is viable, as they say in the industry.

At 530 million barrels it's not going to have the members of Opec shuffling up a few spaces at their next meeting in Vienna to make way for Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster but it would make a big difference to Northern Ireland's economy.

Think what we could do with £36bn.

Probably spend a good amount of it on trying to persuade environmentalists that turning the north coast into a slightly damper and breezier Texas is a good idea.

There are obviously pros and cons about exploiting more fossil fuels but perhaps as a consequence, any profits made from drilling for oil could be ploughed back into renewable energy.

The agreement yesterday between the UK and Irish government's to work together to develop windfarms could see a plethora of windmills erected both onshore and offshore here and in the Republic.

But will that look much different from the oilfields of Texas?

Probably not but the issue of appearance is only the tip of a slowly melting iceberg when it comes to the argument about our future energy policy.

Throw fracking into the mix and we'll need to call Red Adair over to calm the arguments, and he's not cheap.

But at least we have options, and pretty exciting ones at that. How we decide to use them will be the key factor and if the option of drilling for oil is a real one then that can only do our economy good.

Off course, lets not be getting too excited just yet.

Anyone involved in the oil exploration industry will tell you that the type of findings Providence have just uncovered are only the start of the oil discovery process so hold on to your stetsons for now.

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