Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for November, 2013

New article up on women’s health after the bank crisis

My article called Bank Crash Hits Women Harder has just been published on Inter Press Service. It’s about women in Iceland being more affected than men both by stress-related diseases and heart diseases after the bank crash in October 2008.

Some information I obtained originally was embargoed until publication of a paper on the subject, which will appear on December 4. I will update this blog then with the information I included originally and had to take out.

Iceland’s government at odds with the national energy company

Differences of opinion are becoming evident between Iceland’s right-wing government and Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national energy company. At a public meeting yesterday held by Landsvirkjun, the Minister for Industries and Innovation, Ragnheidur Elin Arnadottir, showed that she had become impatient with Landsvirkun’s reticence to work towards the completion of the partly-developed Century aluminium smelter at Helguvik, southwest Iceland. On the other hand, Hordur Arnarson, Landsvirkjun’s CEO, has said in the past that the Alcoa aluminium plant in East Iceland is nowhere near profitable enough, and that Landsvirkjun intends to maximize the profits from its power plants, getting the best prices possible for its energy.

Now the Minister of Finance, Bjarni Benediktsson, says that he wants to get a new board of directors into Landsvirkjun, even though the current board has another six months to go. In reply to a question from another politician today, he said there wouldn’t be a change of emphasis with the new board but that increased investment in industry (read Helguvik) was needed, and that Landsvirkjun shouldn’t be an obstacle to the development of industry in Iceland.

Arnarson’s predecessor, Fridrik Sophusson, had been a Minister in Benediktsson’s Independence Party prior to becoming Landsvirkjun’s CEO. Sophusson was very cooperative with the right-wing government that ruled Iceland for 12 years or more, and developed the controversial Karahnjukar power plant in East Iceland to power the Alcoa smelter.

The new government are clearly pining for the good old days.

Cuts likely to target animal welfare as well as the environment

If the Icelandic government gets its way, it looks like animal welfare will suffer as well as the environment. Despite preparing legislation on measures for helping home-owners with their home loans before proposals have even been formulated on how to do this, the group assigned by the government to find out how to cut down on government expenses has suggested reviewing costs associated with the implementation of the animal welfare Act that was passed earlier this year and is supposed to be implemented at the beginning of next year.  Now, what that means exactly isn’t entirely clear, but I suspect it means that parts of the Act will be amended, e.g. there won’t be as much monitoring – which is something this government wants to reduce as much as possible.

They have already said that they want to review the act on nature conservation, which covers issues such as off-road driving, and now they want to review the operations of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History to see whether its operations can be assimilated into (under-funded) universities and regional wildlife/natural history centres. Ironically, the EU said that Iceland should do more to map and research the Icelandic flora, fauna and such like – something that would normally be done by the IINH which the government would like to get rid of, it seems. They also want to assimilate the research station at Lake Myvatn, where I once worked, into either a university or one of the regional wildlife/natural history centres. I’m not happy about that either, as it’s a centre where both international researchers and Icelandic scientists can stay and study the ecosystem of the lake.

It’s possible some of the group’s 111 proposals will be modified by the ministries or later (hopefully) by other Althingi members. But I doubt that many proposals will be modified.