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Blazing a Trail


From Sweden (where else) comes reports of an ambitious attempt to be oil-free within 15 years.

The intention, the Swedish government said yesterday, is to replace all fossil fuels with renewables before climate change destroys economies and growing oil scarcity leads to huge new price rises.
"Our dependency on oil should be broken by 2020," said Mona Sahlin, minister of sustainable development. "There shall always be better alternatives to oil, which means no house should need oil for heating, and no driver should need to turn solely to gasoline."

[from Treehugger]

Characteristically, they have actually thought this out and have some mechanisms in mind. Here's the list so far proposed or partially implemented.

*Large-scale investments in renewable energy and in research.

*Expansion of district heating initiatives (co-gen and use of waste industrial and utility heat for domestic needs) as was done famously in Denmark, and emulated in the US in a few rare instances.

*Not subjecting fuel that is free of carbon dioxide to the energy tax or the carbon dioxide emission tax.

*Exempting efficient vehicles from the congestion tax that will be introduced in Stockholm in January.

*Taxes on energy and on carbon dioxide emissions were raised, while other taxes, such as those on payroll were decreased by an equivalent amount.

*Municipalities receive grants to conduct long-term climate research and make investments in environment-friendly technology.

*There are interim objectives for each target, regional and local objectives to match, and an Environmental Objectives Council to monitor progress towards the goals.

*Progress is charted through 70 national indicators, which track results and verify whether the country is heading in the right direction.

Looking across some of the boards and comments responding to this news its clear that there is massive scepticism around the capacity to deliver on such a goal. However should the Swedes as usual manage to implement what most of us spend time debating about, it stands as a major example and guideline for other states to begin to wean themselves off oil. I recall another Head of State mentioned reducing the addiction to the black stuff recently so perhaps there is room for some helpful cooperation along the way.

The guiding sentiment here, "We want to be both mentally and technically prepared for a world without oil." is one that other governments would do well to copy. Pretending or putting solutions on the long finger, loses valuable time. Debate, fine, but once its won (which at this stage it quite clearly is), action comes next.

The Swedish government is working with carmakers Saab and Volvo to develop cars and lorries that burn ethanol and other biofuels. Last year the Swedish energy agency said it planned to get the public sector to move out of oil.

Action in cooperation with interests which might prefer a couple more years of oil goodness. Seems like they win again. While its a long way off, and an ambitous target, the Swedes are unlikely to have committed to it without full research and consultation. We shall wait and see, but in the meantime all states, big and small, should be taking lessons from the initiative.

Update:Just a fewe thoughts on the ability to ensure that Swedens good example is followed. Ths situation as it stands is similar to being in a class where Sweden does its homework and the teacher implores the kids at the back to follow such a good example. Outside of chat and a few threats, the teacher is powerless to ensure compliance. Similar problems abound in getting a solution to oil/global warming within the international community.

We all saw the difficulty in getting Kyoto off the ground and the talks in Montreal suggest a lot more chat will take place while Sweden blazes a trail. Swedens action is neither a big boost for unilateralist approaches nor grist to the mill of International agreement supporters. This simplly points out the failure of states to make simple commitments to reducing dependency on oil. Full credit to the UK they will never stop telling us that they are committed to 20% redux in CO2 emmissions.

The challenge laid down by the Swedish move is clear to all those who desire to see a sustainable world emerge from the depletion of oil/fossil fuel resources. There needs to be concerted and binding international arrangements to ensure the safety of the planet ahead of short-term national interest/profit. Long term the likes of Saab and Volvo are far more likely to succeed from this view. There is a case for much more concerted and binding action on the global community to reduce fossil fuel consumption and turn to renewables and sustainables.

Oil at $63 suggests now is as good and profitable time as any to make commitments to getting rid of oil.
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  1. Anonymous morgan | 9:54 a.m. |  

    Good article. I'm surprised so few other people are writing about oil as an issue - it's one of the keys to debates on international relations and, even if there's more than 50% left, it's going to run out fast because demand is so great.

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