Powering up Ireland

Energy is a very important topic of discussion in modern day Ireland. Since Ireland is not the most economically prosperous country they need to be extremely smart about their decisions regarding how they obtain energy. They need to focus on figuring out what kind of energy they can obtain the most of for the least amount of money. The answer that comes to mind immediately when facing this dilemma would be the peat that is at the feet of the five and a half million people in Ireland. Peat is used as a source of fuel to slowly burn fires. This source is so abundant and so cheap that you would think that this would be an obvious answer to their problem. This is a common misconception, one that I was a victim too as well. The repercussions for using peat as an energy source is far more severe than a common traveler might know. Peat is a buildup of dead organic material that has collected in bogs for thousands of years. Peat is natural and can be found all across Ireland’s vast landscapes in areas called bogs. These bogs contain massive amounts peat that can easily be harvested by a machine or by hand using a tool. However, this form of energy contains a great amount of C02 and when it is burned it releases that C02 gas into the air and will eventually are its way to our atmosphere. People may not know this but peat actually releases more c02 than wood. The true dilemma here is the Irish have very easy access to peat bogs. Since it is so easy to obtain and so cheap for them to obtain it they have to think ethically about their use. For example, we visited the Killary sheep farm and were given a tour of his farm which includes a bog area. The owner, Tom, allowed me to dig up some peat out of the ground which was a very fascinating experience. He then explained about how his practice is sustainable since he does it for himself and at a rate which is ethically sound. He pointed to his dig site and said that his whole acre of peat would take him a century to burn through but a machine could dig it up in an afternoon. The Irish are facing a tough decision, do they try and preserve this abundant resource in order to protect our planet, or do they continue their current practices?

 

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