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Iceland can be a country with a totally clean environment

April 26, 2003, 01:00 CEST

"The hydrogen fuelling station is of importance for everything from the environment to tourism. It markets Iceland in a positive way," says Reykjaviks mayor Arni Thor Sigurdson. There is political agreement that Iceland shall eliminate all fossil fuel emissions in the course of 30-50 years.

“Lots of people wouldn’t believe that we have a growing environmental problem in Reykjavik because of increasing traffic. At the same time there is agreement to increase population density in towns rather than expand in the surrounding country. This means more and more traffic in the centre of town and a greater need for collective transport over short distances. With our natural renewable energy resources in the form of geothermal and hydroelectric power, we can achieve these goals. We are making a start now,” says the mayor.

The Icelandic government is footing the main bill for the energy plan, with Reykjavik  council making an important contribution.

Clean environment

“We know that tourists come to Iceland to experience a clean environment. As tourism is one  of our most important industries, alongside our fishery trade, we believe that tourists will come in greater numbers if we can show them a society with a totally environmentally friendly lifestyle. In this way we’ll put Iceland well and truly on the map of Europe,” Sigurdson points out.

“The hydrogen fuelling station will also be important in terms of what people’s conceptions are. By means of surveys we shall find out whether people feel that the station is safe. I am not concerned about this, because we have taken every safety precaution when it comes to  high pressures and explosive gas.”

Political consensus

“How did the project materialize?”

“It was chemistry professor Bragi Arnasson at the University of Iceland who first put forward the idea of a hydrogen society at the beginning of the 1970s. Although not very well received at first, his ideas gradually gained currency, and have in the intervening years formed the basis of a political consensus in the Allting.

“Why don’t you go in for electric trams if you want environmentally friendly public transport?”

“We regard a tramway system or "light railway" as a costlier alternative than hydrogen driven buses. Moreover, we would not have been able to include private vehicles in the scheme. But we still need lots of re-fuelling stations spread over the whole of Iceland. Only then will the project be truly sustainable.”

“Are you going to drive a hydrogen car yourself when the time is right?”

“I don’t do a lot of driving in town. I only use a car for long trips here on Iceland. When there are re-fuelling stations over the entire country, I’ll consider driving a hydrogen vehicle. But before then we’ll be operating all our buses, most of the council’s vehicles and other city transport vehicles on hydrogen. And I don’t think that this will be so many years from now,” says mayor Arni Thor Sigurdson.