Articles Archive

Jul 23 2011

Mixed Feelings About Iceland’s Energy Master Plan – Landsvirkjun Presents its Future Strategy

The making of Iceland’s Energy Master Plan, a framework programme concerning the exploitation and protection of the country’s natural resources, which has been in the making since 1999, has reached a critical state as a report on the process’ second phase was published in the beginning of July. The report includes a list of more than 60 areas, arranged from the perspectives of both protection and exploitation, which is supposed to lay the foundation for a final parliamentary resolution concerning the Master Plan. While those in favour of further exploitation, parallel to the continuous build-up of heavy industry, seem generally happy with the report, environmentalists are both sceptical and critical, stating that the exploitation value was always in the forefront of the process.

Like explained on the project’s official website the process was “split into two phases. The first phase, 1999–2003, evaluated and ranked 20 large-scale hydro-power options, mostly located in the highlands, and the same number of geothermal options in 8 high-temperature areas.” The second phase was supposed to “rank all the options to produce the final result,” including “an evaluation of whether some areas should be conserved completely, without any energy-harnessing activities.” Proposed power projects were said to be “evaluated and categorised on the basis of efficiency, economic profitability, and how they will benefit the economy as a whole,” while the “the impact on the environment, nature, and wildlife” was also supposed to be evaluated, “as well as the impact on the landscape, cultural heritage and ancient monuments, grazing and other traditional land use, outdoor activities fishing, and hunting.” Read More

Jul 16 2011
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Reykjavík Energy in Deep Water: The Untold Story of Geothermal Energy in Iceland

By Anna Andersen, photos by Alísa Kalyanova. Originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine.

Overrun by Viking ambition, Reykjavík Energy built headquarters fit for Darth Vader, expanded ambitiously, dabbled in tiger prawn farming and flax seed production, went into the fibre optics business, invested in a new geothermal plant, speculated in places like Djibouti, and finally managed to run itself so completely into the ground that foreign investors will no longer offer the company loans.

In hopes of rescuing its multi-utility service company from the depths of abyss, the city of Reykjavík stepped in this March with a 12 billion ISK (105 million USD) loan, which is nearly its entire reserve fund set aside for the company, but still only a fraction of the company’s massive foreign debt of 200 billion ISK (1.7 billion USD).

With thousands of captive lifetime subscribers and a means of producing energy at very little cost, the company had all the makings of a cash cow. So what happened to Reykjavík Energy, an entity that less than a decade ago was a perfectly viable, municipally owned company providing the city with basic utilities: cold water, hot water and electricity? Read More

Jun 23 2011
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The Reykjavík One: The Trials and Tribulations of Geir H. Haarde

By Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson
Originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine

A little more than a year ago, several Icelandic bankers were arrested and kept in custody in relation to the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into the 2008 economic collapse, its antecedents and causes. Appearing in political TV talk show Silfur Egils shortly afterwards, French-Norwegian magistrate Eva Joly, who at that time served as the Prosecutor’s special assistant, talked about how society does not expect—and has problems to deal with—politically and economically powerful people being arrested, interrogated and possibly sentenced.

Eva Joly was right. And the reason? Habit. Whether a journalist, police officer, lawyer, judge or a powerless citizen, in a civilised society based on dualistic ideas of good and evil, one is most likely unable to recognise well-dressed and eloquent people—with possessions and power in their pockets—as anything other than good. During the interview, Eva compared those people with drug users and dealers that are brought to court, who generally are immediately seen by society as criminals deserving to face “justice”. Another rightful comparison would be political dissidents. Read More

May 24 2011

Red Mud Spill and People’s Resistance at Niyamgiri: A First Hand Report From the Struggle

From Miriam Rose

On 16th May after heavy rain, toxic red mud poured from a breach in one of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery red mud ponds, spilling onto the village below. The next day landless people displaced by the project held two blockades demanding adequate compensation; a five day walking protest ended with a meeting of 500 people on the threatened Niyamgiri hills; and the funeral of a tribal movement leader, killed by factory pollution, was held. Two months before Vedanta’s often-subverted AGM this will be bad news for the company. This is a direct report from the scene. Read More

May 20 2011

Cover-ups and Evasions Condoned by the Minister of the Interior

Statement from Saving Iceland regarding the recently published report by the National Commissioner’s ‘National Security Unit’. The report was requested by the Minister of the Interior and was supposed to answer the questions if the Icelandic police were aware of and collaborated in British police spy Mark Kennedy’s infiltration of the Saving Iceland network. (Translated from Icelandic.)

The Saving Iceland network has spent some time examining the report authored  by the National Commissioner’s ‘National Security Unit’ published on May 17. Already at this stage we would like to make a considerable number of remarks.

First of all we have to express our astonishment if Ögmundur Jónasson, the Minister of the Interior is going to accept as valid the poorly reasoned cover-ups that are resorted to by the report’s authors. It is also remarkable how superficial and simply untrue the Minister’s own interpretation of the report has been so far. Unfortunately the same is true of the coverage of the report made by some of the Icelandic corporate media.

The report’s most serious flaw is of course the fact that it completely evades the responsibility that it was officially intended to assume. The only de facto information about the report’s actual subject is on page 12,  where it is stated that the police received “confidential information” concerning the intended protests against the Kárahnjúkar dam from both domestic and foreign “informers”, and that this information was used to organize the police’s reaction. Read More

May 11 2011

Reykjavík Nine: What Did We Learn?

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

By mid March, the case against the Reykjavík Nine (who had been accused of conspiracy to attack Alþingi with the intent of compromising its “independence and sanctity”) finally came to a close when the state prosecutor decided not to appeal the Reykjavík district court ruling in the case. The nine had been acquitted of all the major charges of the prosecution.

Not for lack of evidence or because the nine were able to slip through legal loopholes. No, the court found that there was absolutely no evidence to support the case of the prosecution; that there was absolutely nothing that indicated the group had ever intended to do anything but exercise its constitutional right to protest peacefully in a public space. The court did, however, find four protesters guilty of relatively minor offences: disobeying police orders and obstructing public officials performing their duties. Read More

May 03 2011

New Photographic Evidence Shows that Icelandic Police Lied About their Dealings with Mark Kennedy

In January 2011, when the illegal covert actions of UK police in Icelandic jurisdiction hit the pages of the international media, the local police forces of the two Icelandic towns Seydisfjörður and Eskifjörður in Eastern Iceland issued a statement in response to queries from the Icelandic National Broadcaster (RUV). The Broadcaster asked if the Icelandic police had been aware of the infiltration of the Saving Iceland network by British police spy Mark Kennedy. According to the Broadcaster the two police forces denied that they had had any “dealings with Kennedy during the protests against the Kárahnjúkar dams.”

Saving Iceland can now reveal evidence that shows clearly that the two police forces are not telling the truth about their dealings with Kennedy. The top photograph accompanying this statement shows two Icelandic police officers grappling with Mark Kennedy during a Saving Iceland action that took place on 26 July 2005 at the site of the Kárahnjúkar central dam. Clearly the incident pictured shows that the Icelandic police most certainly had “dealings” with the British spy. Read More

Apr 14 2011

Alcoa in Greenland: Empty Promises?

By Miriam Rose

After many years of preparations the Greenlandic government say the final decision on Alcoa’s proposed smelter will be taken at the spring 2012 of the parliament. It is more likely, as the global history of the industry and the evidence in Greenland tells us, that the decision has in fact already been made undemocratically behind closed doors, despite the decreasing support of the Greenlandic people. In fact Alcoa and the Greenland government are so keen on passing the project that they have just hired an eighth employee at their national company Greenland Development- formed to enable the industry to go ahead. Juaaka Lyberth’s explicit remit is to influence public opinion on the smelter through the media. Greenland Development paints a rosy picture of an aluminium future for Greenland, but will their promises of prosperity come true? A comparison to Alcoa’s Fjardaal project in East Iceland suggests that many will not. Read More

Apr 12 2011

People Can’t be Made to Bathe in Red Mud

Felix Padel/ Samarendra Das

First Published : 20 Oct 2010 on

When news spread that the red mud pond in a Hungarian alumina refinery had broken open on October 3 [2010], spilling toxic sludge over a huge area, killing people and livestock, this confirmed our worst fears regarding new refineries going up in Orissa [India] and neighbouring states. For Hungarians a nightmare scenario has begun, as their country faces to its worst-ever environmental disaster. Apart from villagers killed or maimed by the toxic sludge, many farmers face economic ruin, as their fields are contaminated beyond repair. How much worse would a similar disaster be in India, where the population density of farmers is much higher? Read More

Mar 28 2011

Iceland Divided Over Aluminum’s Role in its Future

The Los Angeles Times
Henry Chu, Reporting from Grundartangi, Iceland

Some say aluminum is vital to Iceland’s budding economic recovery. Others say the industry was at the root of the nation’s 2008 economic collapse.

Part of the cure — or cause — of Iceland’s spectacular economic meltdown sits here on a rugged fiord backed by frigid blue waters and snowcapped mountains. Read More