Mona Sahlin misses again

Mona Sahlin, Minister for Sustainable Development, has announced an initiative to reduce our dependency on imported oil. Target year is 2020 when we’re supposed to have a society where these is always a better alternative to oil for heating and transportation as well as our industry. 

Some will dismiss this as politics as usual. So it is, of course. Any seemingly courageous initiative less than twelve months before an election which just happens to coincide with the current debate (in this case about petroleum prices) should be met with a bit of caution. This is particularly true for a ministry which has specialized in words rather than action and for a government which is pressed by lousy poll figures.

Nevertheless, Sahlin’s initiative is bold and mostly constructive. Sustainable development is a necessity and a question far more important than the never-ending whining about the price of petrol.

Unfortunately, the ministry hasn’t been able to come up with a consistent policy. Specifically, any attempt to reduce oil dependency and CO2 emissions should embrace nuclear power rather than dismantling it. Sahlin knows this and therefore she doesn’t mention nuclear power at all in her lengthy article. Sweden has deliberately given up a position of world leader in this field. In the wake of Kyoto there are immense possibilities for those able and willing to export civilian nuclear technology.

At the end of the day, sustainable development – like many other areas – requires a new and different government. Let us replace Sahlin, embrace nuclear power and go forward with the goal of eliminating oil dependency by 2020.


stromsjo said...

Hi Dave. I think we need to utilize several energy sources while trying to improve efficiency. As far as I can see the only feasible alternative to nuclear power today is an increased dependency on fossil fuels. And that choice is really a no-brainer, don't you agree?

stromsjo said...

Hi Dave. I appreciate your comments.

District heating is a mixed blessing. When a city stops functioning, no matter why, the consumers are literally left in the cold. Otherwise it’s probably efficient and environmentally friendly.

I agree about transportation being a major issue.

We had a disastrous referendum in Sweden where we (well, a majority of “us” anyhow) decided to phase out nuclear power and make room for all sorts of alternatives which were supposed to pop up given the proper incentives. 26 years later, having spent billions of crowns in various subsidies we’re still at square one. Energy consumption is increasing. The alternatives, however nice, haven’t gained much ground. Oil, coal or nuclear remain our current options.

stromsjo said...

>However, the renewable energy
>policy did not really kick in in
>Sweden until 1997. Is this true,

The only effective energy policy in Sweden is the decision to stop building nuclear power plants and the law which prohibits research (!) in this area. Thanks to this policy we're nowadays dependent on importing electric power. Weather and pure luck will decide if we'll make it through another winter without rationing.

As far as I can see there are a lot of words and very little action regarding renewables.

>I guess I am curious how things
>are going with replacing the
>Barseback plant with renewables?

Barseback is being replaced with other nuclear power. The government decided a few months ago to allow an increased output from the remaining nuclear plants to compensate for the loss of Barseback. So, in terms of power output, I guess the phase-out hasn't even begun in Sweden. That's how far we've come in 36 years.

stromsjo said...

Hi Dave, I appreciate your comments in this matter.

Just to correct my latest post, it's been 26 years since the referendum - not 36.

The renewables are enjoying a lot of governmental support and still haven't gained much ground in the marketplace. My conclusion is that we'll have to pursue further research to make them competitive.

For this generation I'd recommend building another 4-6 nuclear reactors, bearing in mind that this would take a decade even if we had the political majority for such a decision in place today.

Since we keep reelecting red-green governments we can look forward to an increased energy shortage, possibly rationing, an increased dependency on power importing and most likely a reduced growth due to ever increasing energy prices. I hope their voters are happy. I'm not.

And returning to the topic, I fully agree that we should make every effort to reduce and hopefully eliminate our dependency on oil. I just bought myself a hybrid car to do my part.

stromsjo said...

I suppose we're both biased... :)

Most Swedes couldn't care less how their energy is produced as long as its cheap and always available. If it's being produced in an environmentally friendly fashion that's a plus but a large majority wouldn't pay extra for this.

There is certainly a lot of wind to harvest along our coastline. But whenever a project is attempted strong local opposition emerges, you know the principle not-in-my-backyard, so economy and unfriendly neighbors remain sobering factors for those contemplating wind mills.

If the current opinion polls are an indication of the upcoming election result we could soon have a different government. The current four-party opposition alliance is split 3-1 in favor of nuclear power but as of yet they have not agreed on their common energy policy.

As always, time will tell.

stromsjo said...

Thanks for further comments on this one.

When I was a kid (it’s been a while) there were already sound reasons to stop wasting our oil reserves. Then the Arab countries suddenly realized that they could in fact charge substantially more and we had a couple of oil crisis. None of this had any significant impact on the way we squander this resource simply for propelling cars. Now with the very real threat of global warming looming we just might have enough incentive to change things but I wouldn’t bet my last Euro on this. Reducing our dependency on oil is sound politics from just about any perspective. And yes, my hybrid car is running just fine thank you…

As for hydro power, yes by all means, but our Riksdag has decided to refrain from exploiting our four remaining large rivers so that particular policy shift will take a while. Nuclear, absolutely, if you ask me. We’ve been through that in this thread already. And wind, that’d be great if we can only make it commercially viable.

As for ethanol, I believe we’re constrained by physical limits. Specifically, if all the forests of Sweden were used for ethanol production they still couldn’t keep our millions of cars running. Most countries have more cars and less forests of course so ethanol alone won’t replace oil.