Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for December, 2014

Iceland gets new environment minister

At long last, Iceland’s current centre-right government, which has been in power since May 2013, has appointed an environment minister – Sigrun Magnusdottir. Up till now, Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson had taken on the duties of the environment minister although he was primarily the minister for fisheries and agriculture.

Iceland’s first environment minister was appointed in the spring of 1990. Until last year, there had always been an environment minister from that time on. But this government obviously does not prioritise the environment at all – Johannsson had even proffered the view that an environment minister was unnecessary. He certainly seems to have done more to destroy the environment than to preserve it. Let’s hope the new environment minister will do something – though I don’t have high hopes. Magnusdottir is from the Progressive Party, which has traditionally held the post of environment minister when it has been in power with the Independence Party, and I can’t remember much happening due to the actions of the environment minister when someone from the Progressive Part has held the post.

Still, one can only hope for the best. She can’t be any worse than SIJ.

Minke whale meat imported to Iceland

Minke whale meat will be imported from Norway to Iceland to meet demand, as only 23 whales were caught this season (out of a total quota of 236 whales). Last year, 38 minke whales were caught, and previously the number had been between 50 and 60. Though few Icelanders eat minke whale meat, it is on the menu of a number of restaurants where it is sampled by tourists.

The minke whale meat will be imported from the Norwegian company Lofothval. Interestingly, the man behind Iceland’s fin whaling, Kristjan Loftsson, also owns 12.2% of the shares in this company, which means he also has his finger in the pie in minke whaling.

Some time ago, in a blog entitled Update: Whale meat and whale beer, I wrote:

According to the press release, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha announced last month that that it would begin imports of Norwegian whale meat in 2014, stating that it needed to import and sell whale meat “in order to help subsidize future Japanese scientific whaling efforts.” That same month, Lofothval, a whaling firm based in Reine in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, received two permits from Norway’s Environment Agency to send whale products to Japan. One shipment of 5,000 kg is identified as whale meat only from Lofothval, while a second shipment is identified as a re-export of 5,000 kg of Icelandic minke whale meat and blubber.

Thus it would have been relatively easy for Loftsson to arrange the transport of minke whale meat to Norway at the time. He had the connections.

Icelandic power plants revisited

Rio Tinto Alcan has just had to reimburse Iceland’s national power company, Landsvirkjun for building the country’s latest hydroelectric plant to come on line, Budarhals power plant, when it wasn’t needed. Originally the RTA aluminium company was going to expand its smelter in Straumsvik, just outside of Reykjavik, considerably and needed extra energy to do so. Landsvirkjun was asked to provide the extra energy needed, and so built the Budarhals plant, but now much of the energy is not needed because RTA have not expanded their capacity as expected.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary committee on industry has decided to move eight power plants from the pending more research category of the Rammaáætlun plan (which categorizes potential geological and hydropower plants into exploitable, needing more research, and preservation categories) into the exploitable category, without any consultation with people/organizations that have been working on the matter. The plants concerned include some of the plants in the Lower Thjorsa which had been moved into the pending category by the previous government. The three Lower Thjorsa plants had been thought of as operating as one unit and recently one of the plants had been moved back to the exploitable category after due consideration.
But being able to exploit only one of the three plants is not much good, so it’s not too surprising that the other two plants have been moved back as well. So Urridafoss waterfall will be under threat once more.
However, with excess capacity available in the Budarhals plant, it’s unlikely that new plants will need to be developed in the immediate future. Or at least, that SHOULD be the case.