plans to be world's first oil-free economy
· 15-year limit set for switch to renewable energy
· Biofuels favoured over further nuclear power
John Vidal, environment editor
Wednesday February 8, 2022
Sweden is to take the biggest energy step of any advanced western
economy by trying to wean itself off oil completely within 15 years
- without building a new generation of nuclear power stations.
The attempt by the country of 9 million people to become the world's
first practically oil-free economy is being planned by a committee
of industrialists, academics, farmers, car makers, civil servants and
others, who will report to parliament in several months.
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."
According to the energy committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of
Sciences, there is growing concern that global oil supplies are peaking
and will shortly dwindle, and that a global economic recession could
result from high oil prices.
Ms Sahlin has described
oil dependency as one of the greatest problems facing the world. "A Sweden free of fossil fuels would give us
enormous advantages, not least by reducing the impact from fluctuations
in oil prices," she said. "The price of oil has tripled since
A government official
want to be both mentally and technically prepared for a world without
oil. The plan is a response
to global climate change, rising petroleum prices and warnings by some
experts that the world may soon be running out of oil."
Sweden, which was badly hit by the oil price rises in the 1970s, now
gets almost all its electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric power,
and relies on fossil fuels mainly for transport. Almost all its heating
has been converted in the past decade to schemes which distribute steam
or hot water generated by geothermal energy or waste heat. A 1980 referendum
decided that nuclear power should be phased out, but this has still
not been finalised.
The decision to abandon oil puts Sweden at the top of the world green
league table. Iceland hopes by 2050 to power all its cars and boats
with hydrogen made from electricity drawn from renewable resources,
and Brazil intends to power 80% of its transport fleet with ethanol
derived mainly from sugar cane within five years.
Last week George Bush surprised analysts by saying that the US was
addicted to oil and should greatly reduce imports from the Middle East.
The US now plans a large increase in nuclear power.
The British government,
which is committed to generating 10% of its electricity from renewable
sources by 2012, last month launched an
energy review which has a specific remit to consider a large increase
in nuclear power. But a report by accountants Ernst & Young yesterday
said that the UK was falling behind in its attempt to meet its renewables
"The UK has Europe's best wind, wave and tidal resources yet
it continues to miss out on its economic potential," said Jonathan
Johns, head of renewable energy at Ernst & Young.
Energy ministry officials in Sweden said they expected the oil committee
to recommend further development of biofuels derived from its massive
forests, and by expanding other renewable energies such as wind and
Sweden has a head start over most countries. In 2003, 26% of all the
energy consumed came from renewable sources - the EU average is 6%.
Only 32% of the energy came from oil - down from 77% in 1970.
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. Its health and library services are being given
grants to convert from oil use and homeowners are being encouraged
with green taxes. The paper and pulp industries use bark to produce
energy, and sawmills burn wood chips and sawdust to generate power.
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