Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for September, 2018

Fin whaling definitely finished for the season off Iceland

I was hoping that fin whaling would end this weekend and it looks like it has. When I was at the Reykjavik Whale Save vigil on Friday night outside the whaling station, Hvalur 8 was still there, after arriving at 8 a.m. that morning – usually the boats go out again soon after bringing back their whales.IMG_0709

The other boat, Hvalur 9, returned yesterday with whales no. 135 and 136. Sea Shepherd UK have been monitoring the site constantly over the last few months, and late this afternoon they reported that the two whaling boats were docked at the whaling station, the staff had been reduced to a minimum, many have been seen carrying bags of whale meat over the last few days, and the whole area was being cleaned thoroughly. Hvalur 9 has now left the whaling station and is probably on its way back to Reykjavik.

Avaaz sent out a petition this morning, urging the Icelandic PM and Fisheries Minister not to renew the licence for next year, and a UK campaign group is also about to put out a petition with similar demands. In fact, the Foreign Ministry (Utanríkisráðuneyti) should be targeted as well, as the media turn to them when wanting to find out how much opposition there is abroad to Iceland’s whaling. Email to pressurize them to stop whaling permanently.

A number of pregnant whales have been caught, and two hybrid whales. The quota was 191 whales, including 30 left over from last year’s quota when whaling didn’t take place. Recently, each boat has been bringing back two whales at a time.

Update, 18 September: Hvalur 9 has returned with two more whales. So it’s still happening.

Update, 24 September: I wrote the first part of this blog on 16 September, a bit prematurely.

The harpoons have now been removed from both boats, one today from Hvalur 9 and the other yesterday, from Hvalur 8. The final total is 146 whales, 21 of which were pregnant.


Ambitious climate programme ignored

Is climate change considered unimportant by Iceland’s citizens? Early in the week, the Icelandic government unrolled an ambitious Action Plan to tackle climate change, with the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2030. But no one is talking about it. Progressive trade union leaders, politicians and the general public remain stuck in the traditional “we need more money to live on” mindset and criticize elements of the Budget related to that.

Iceland’s PM, Katrin Jakobsdottir, is from the Left-Green Party, which is the second-largest party in the parliamentary Althingi and is part of a three-party ruling coalition with the conservative Independent Party (the biggest party in the Althingi) and the central Progressive Party. The Left-Greens have been accused of pandering to the Independent Party and ignoring their own demands. There may be some truth in that, given that it’s a difficult situation and requires a balancing act to get matters through.

Although the Climate Action Plan has elements from six ministries in it, it was primarily the responsibility of the environment ministry and its minister, Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson. And he is from the Left-Green Party. Jakobsdottir signalled the plan as a watershed in Icelandic environmental matters, with increased funds put aside to follow up the 34 actions on the list.

The main emphasis is on alternative forms of energy for vehicles, especially land-based ones, as registration of new vehicles fuelled by diesel or petrol will not be allowed from 2030. Increased carbon sequestration by forestry and land reclamation is another emphasis, along with wetlands reclamation – maybe this will include increased funding for the Wetland Fund, which was set up earlier this year. The ministries used the services of environmental consultancy Environice during the development of the strategy.

The Action Plan is only available in Icelandic, but can be downloaded here. Mention is made of food waste in Iceland, which is the first time I’ve seen quantifiable figures, namely 120 kg per person from the catering and restaurant sector and 60 kg/person from individuals.

It’s worthy of consideration and shouldn’t be ignored.

Second silicon furnace begins operation at PCC Bakki

PCC Bakki Silicon started up their second furnace last night, 1 September (ironically exactly a year from when Iceland’s Environment Agency closed down United Silicon’s  silicon smelter in Helguvik, southwest Iceland). They’ve called it Boga.

PCC’s first furnace was called Birta, and suffered a number of setbacks, most of which I’ve probably blogged about, including a fire. One setback I haven’t yet mentioned happened on August 22, when a computer problem caused the emergency smokestack to open for 15 minutes or so. A lot of smoke was released, and residents of the local town complained of a burning odour that residents near the Helguvik plant would recognise at once. This is not by any means the first time this has happened, as less than a month after Birta was started, it was reported that the emergency smokestack had to be opened four or five times due to various problems, although the problems they encountered were not the ones they expected.

PCC are very keen to gloss over their technical problems and have always tried to maintain a glowing image of the factory.

That said, PCC management have said that local residents might experience a burning odour while the second furnace is being brought into use. It will be interesting to see how many problems are experienced with the second furnace.

Update: They reported on their Facebook page on Saturday that the start-up of Boga was proving more complex than expected. had been problems with the feeding system that had shorted not just the second furnace but also the first one. This had happened about a week earlier. They got the latter (Birta) going soon afterwards but decided that Boga needed more attention, not just with the material feeding system but also with the electrodes, which had broken and cracked too much. They were intending to start up Boga again later that day – with potential odours. Ho hum.

Update: They haven’t got Boga going again. On 21 September they said they realised there were a number of problems with it that needed attention and they’d report again when these were done – which hasn’t happened yet (25 September). Bogi has never reached full capacity.

Update: October 23: They STILL haven’t got Boga to work and they haven’t managed to identify the root of the problem.

Update: November 10: They seem to have got Boga working.