Science first on fracking, Ireland says

April 17, 2013 at 8:20 AM

DUBLIN, Ireland, April 17 (UPI) -- The Irish government needs to take advantage of domestic oil and natural gas reserves but fracking campaigns need further study, the energy minister said.

Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte told the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin that European and Irish laws forbid hydraulic fracturing unless it can be found that such campaigns won't have an "unacceptable" effect on society or the environment.

Ireland imports all of its oil and relies in foreign sources for 90 percent of its natural gas needs. That means the country is vulnerable to external supply crises.

The Irish government awarded two onshore exploration licenses in 2011 but those licenses weren't sanctioned for hydraulic fracturing.

The International Energy Agency said unconventional reserves may account for 40 percent of the gas demand and 14 percent of the oil demand by 2035.

Rabbitte said the hydraulic fracturing has redefined the U.S. energy sector and it's time for EU members Union to consider their own potential. He said it was time to study the science surrounding unconventional reserves.

"Ultimately, our shared goal is to maximize the benefits to Ireland from our indigenous oil and gas resources," he said. "But we need to ensure that both exploration and production -- conventional or unconventional, on land or at sea -- are conducted safely and on an environmentally sound basis."

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