Ireland facing ‘new era’ of higher energy costs, Martin warns

European Union leaders have agreed to embargo most Russian oil imports into the bloc by year-end as part of new sanctions on Moscow.

31 May 2022

Ireland’s Prime Minister has warned that the country is facing a “new era” of higher fossil fuel prices after EU leaders agreed to ban most Russian oil imports.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the government will do everything it can to “alleviate the pressures” on Irish consumers.

European Union leaders agreed on Monday to embargo most Russian oil imports into the bloc by year-end as part of new sanctions on Moscow.

The compromise was made at a two-day summit focused on helping Ukraine with a long-delayed package of new financial support.

The embargo covers Russian oil brought in by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline.

Mr Martin said he was “very pleased” at the decision taken late on Monday, describing it as a “watershed moment”.

“It’s a significant decision in terms of the banning of the importation of Russian oil into the European Union and really accounting for a very significant volume of Russian oil and that will hit Russia,” the Taoiseach said on Tuesday.

He said the ongoing war in Ukraine, climate change and change in EU policy will make for “fairly rocky territory” over the next number of years in terms of high energy prices.

“One is looking at a different era now in terms of pricing around fossil fuels,” Mr Martin added.

“The war has really exacerbated this, and created huge pressure and there’s no doubt in my mind that part of Putin’s strategy was to create an energy crisis, and also then to create a food crisis.

“I think we’re going to work very hard to create alternative forms of energy.

“We’ve done well in Ireland in terms of electricity on renewables. We’ve got to move much faster now to the end of this decade.

“We will do everything we can to alleviate the pressures on consumers. But if you look at the EU power initiative and communication is very, very clear that if you reduce permanently your dependence on Russian gas and oil, that has implications for the global market over time.

“But it will be challenging, there’s no point in saying anything other than that it will be challenging.”

Despite this, Mr Martin said there will be no further measures announced by the Government before October’s budget to help ease the pressure on householders.

The move to allow an exemption for imports delivered by pipeline led to Hungary also backing the latest sanctions.

“Clearly, there were significant challenges for some member states which had to be taken into account, given their dependency. I think it was genuine,” the Taoiseach added.

“Since the beginning of this war the actions of Vladimir Putin has united Europe more than ever before and I was always struck at the first round of sanctions at unanimity and the quickness of that unanimity.

“As you go from round to round it becomes more challenging, and oil and gas are particularly challenging given the dependency on Russian oil and gas of some member states.

“What is very clear, though, is that we are at a watershed moment in terms of the European Union’s dependency on Russian oil and gas, because side by side with the sanctions package last evening, we began discussions on the energy package, which is looking really to a more sustained and fundamental break in that dependency on Russian gas and oil.

“If you dovetail that with our climate change agenda, it is a watershed moment in terms of fossil fuels in general, which will make for fairly rocky territory over the next number of years in terms of pricing around fossil fuels, we cannot get away from that.”

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