Though Iceland is quite progressive when it comes to renewable energy, there are still no plans to eliminate all gas stations here.
I’m sorry to say that Erini Petroutsas, whose letter was published in The News on September 20, is wrong in his statement: “Iceland will be completely free of its last gas station in 2008.”
In fact, sad to say, Icelanders use more oil and gas per capita than most other Western nations.
This is reported in the newest issue of the respected Nordic journal Anays Norden (September 27).
So, no, Iceland has no such plans as to get rid of its gas stations, at least not palpable ones.
But Sweden does — albeit in 12 years.
By the year 2020, it intends to be “out of fossil fuels.”
As far as I know, no other Nordic country has set such a date.
However, the Swedes’ plan has been rather controversial, particularly because they don’t really have any one energy source that they intend to use instead of fossil fuels.
Some politicians swear by nuclear power, but the Swedes’ nuclear reactors have lately been shut down due to malfunctions, some of them more often than once.
Besides, your average Swede isn’t all that keen on nuclear energy.
In Analys Norden, Margit Silberstein discusses the energy issue and laments that government officials differ so widely on energy that they can hardly come to any sort of agreement on green energy, let alone nuclear energy.
“During the Social Democrats’ 12-year leadership, their leader Göran Persson often spoke of the party’s green vision,” writes Silberstein, adding, “the critics said it was more talk than reality.”
Persson organized an oil commission that was to establish a more green future for Sweden, as opposed to oil and gas, and eventually get rid of all oil by the year 2020.
But what will come instead is unclear.
In 1980, a nation-wide referendum agreed that all nuclear activity should end in Sweden by the year 2010.
Today, it seems pretty clear that will not happen, as the Swedes still rely quite heavily on nuclear energy for their winter electricity needs.
But none of the political parties seem to have an answer what will happen in the whole energy field.
This past summer, five of Sweden’s 10 nuclear reactors were shut down due to either malfunction or regular upgrades.
Most of these have been reopened, but some have not made it through the inspection due to further mishaps.
And the near-accident that occurred in one of the Forsmark reactors still has Swedes upset and nervous.
Silberstein states that this is one of the largest issues facing Swedish politics right now — and that no clear answer is in sight.
Some political parties have even gone so far as to suggest more nuclear reactors be built, as is happening in Finland.
It may come as a bit of a surprise to Canadians who, despite a long history of nuclear reactors, have never had any nuclear accidents, to see what a huge dispute this is causing in Sweden, where no serious accident has ever happened.
Even the incident in Forsmark this summer was stopped before it got out of hand.
But bear in mind that Chernobyl in Ukraine, where 20 years ago a nuclear accident caused the deaths of hundreds of people, is not all that far from the Nordic countries.
As was reported on last month in Aftenposten, a Norwegian newspaper, researches still find radioactive material in milk and meat in Norway.
This produce never makes it to the market, as the government tests all produce and eliminates it, but reports of the findings always do.
So the Chernobyl accident is still quite vivid in Scandinavian minds.
Iceland has no nuclear reactors, and has no intention of building any.
And though we are huge consumers of oil and gas, not all hope is gone for Iceland.
At the moment, more than 70 per cent of Iceland’s energy needs are provided by renewable resources, geothermal or hydro, and so does not emit greenhouse gas either during production nor burning.
Fossil fuels are now exclusively used for powering cars and fishing vessels, as well as for some industrial processes.
And more and more companies are looking towards vehicles that run on methane, electricity or hydrogen, as my regular readers will know by now.
Judging from the words of Valgerdur Sverrisdóttir, Iceland’s Foreign minister, at the international conference on hydrogen last month, Iceland will see a lot more experiments and research being done in this area.
“Our aim is to make Iceland the first sustainable energy economy — with all its energy needs provided by renewable energy, using fossil fuels only for some industrial processes,” said Valgerdur.
Still, despite all of Valgerdur and Persson’s bold words, the battle for a greener world in Iceland and the other Nordic countries, as well as in Canada, is constantly uphill.
Let’s just hope it’s not entirely a Sisyphean task.