'Ecology' Tag Archive

Jul 20 2007

Saving Iceland Invades Reykjavik Energy


Saving Iceland Invites Reykjavik Energy to Discuss their Ethics Publicly “STOP PRODUCING ENERGY FOR WAR”

REYKJAVIK – Saving Iceland’s clown army has this afternoon entered the head office of Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (OR, Reykjavik Energy) on Baejarhals 1. Simultaneously, protestors climbed onto the roof of the building unfolding a banner stating ‘Vopnaveita Reykjavíkur’ (Reykjavik arms-dealers). Saving Iceland demands that O.R. stop selling energy to the aluminium corporations Century and ALCAN-RioTinto. 30% of aluminium produced goes to the military and arms-industry (1).

Currently, O.R. are expanding the Hellisheidi geothermal plant at Hengill. “The goal of enlarging Hellisheidarvrikjun is to meet industries demands of energy,” states the Environmental Impact Assessment, particularly the Century expansion at Grundartangi and possible new ALCAN and Century plants at Straumsvik and Helguvik (2, 3).
Read More

Jul 18 2007

Saving Iceland Blockade Century and ELKEM Factories


Century smelterPress Release

GRUNDARTANGI – Saving Iceland has this afternoon closed the single supply road from Highway 1 to the Century/Nordural smelter in Hvalfjordur and the steel factory Elkem – Icelandic Alloys. Saving Iceland opposes the planned new Century smelter at Helguvik and the expansion of the Icelandic Alloys factory. Activists have used lock-ons (metal arm tubes) to form a human blockade on the road and have occupied a construction site crane.

Century Aluminum, a part of the recently formed Russian-Swiss RUSAL/ Glencore/SUAL conglomorate, want to build a second smelter in Iceland in Helguvik with a projected capacity of at least 250.000 metric tons per annum. The planned site is designed to accommodate further expansion. Grundartangi has this year been extended to 260.000 mtpa.

Currently, an environmental impact assessment (1) is under review for the Helguvik smelter, produced by the construction consultants HRV (Honnun/Rafhonnun/VST).

“It is absurd that an engineering company with a vested interest in the smelter construction could be considered to produce an objective impact assessment. The document makes absurd claims, such as that pollution is really not a problem because Helguvik is such a windy place that the pollution will just blow away,” says Saving Iceland’s Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson.”

“This smelter will demand new geothermal power plants at Seltún, Sandfell, Austurengjar and Trölladyngju. In addition to the Hengill area which has already been seriously damaged by Reykjavik Energy. The impact assessment does not take these into account, nor the impact of the huge amount of power lines and pylons required. The plants will ruin the natural and scenic value of the whole peninsula. Also, the recquired capacity, 400 MW, exceeds the natural capactity of the geothermal spots, and they will cool down in three to four decades (2). And Century admits it wants the site to expand further in the next decades. So it is obvious that this smelter will not just ruin Reykjanes but also need additional hydropower.”

The impact procedure seems to be completely irrelevant anyway, since the company has completed an equity offering worth $360 million to be deployed for partly financing the construction of the Helguvik smelter project (3). This indicates that Century already has high level assurances that the project is to continue no matter what.

This completely contradicts the claims the new government of Iceland, and particularly it’s environment minister Þórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, is opposed to new smelter projects.

Icelandic Alloys wants to expand its facility for producing ferrosilicon for the steel industry. It is in fact one of Iceland’s largest contributors to greenhouse gases and other pollutants (4).

“Expansion of Icelandic Alloys and Century considerably contribute to Iceland’s greenhouse emissions. If there are no further expansions of heavy industry beyond Grundartangi and ALCOA Fjardaal, Iceland will emit 38% more greenhouse gases than in 1990. If other expansion plans continue, levels would rise to an incredible 63% above 1990 levels. (5). That is completely irresponsible.

This shows that all the talk about ‘green energy’ from hydro and geothermal is, in reality, a lie. Icelanders have to rise up against these foreign corporations,” says Úlfhildarson. Read More

Jul 17 2007

Blackmail by Hengill


View from Hengill
July 18th 2007 a number of Saving Iceland activists made a courteous -first- visit to the Reykjavik Energy geothermal power station (Hellisheidarvirkjun), at Hengill volcano, to ask questions about the expansion of the geothermal power plant to provide electricity to aluminium smelters (Source: EIB). It is striking, that although the expansion of the Rio Tinto ALCAN smelter in Hafnarfjordur has been rejected by referendum, and other smelter projects in the south west are not definite, and the current Icelandic government says to oppose more smelters, Hellisheidi is still being expanded by Reykjavik Energy – at a cost of a whopping 379.06 million dollars. The Icelandic people are again blackmailed: once the expansion is completed, this will force Iceland into more smelters because the electricity needs to be sold to get investments back. The expansion must be stopped.

The Hengill geothermal area is one of the largest and most active geothermal zones in Iceland, with over 112 km2 of unique geological landscape featuring warm pools, hot springs and bubbling mud pools. The area is culturally and historically fascinating, located below and on the slopes of the dramatic Hengill volcano where travellers on their way to Reykjavik and Þingvellir have traced the ancient Cairns since Iceland’s first settlement. Þingvellir national park and Alþingi, the most precious Icelandic cultural landmark, can be seen from Hengill across the stunning lake þingvallavatn and stands to be affected by the developments here.

Geothermal Electricity
In addition to the existing geothermal boreholes and power plants at Hellisheiði, Reykjavik Energy has declared plans to vastly expand the number of boreholes and power stations in order to produce electricity planned Aluminium smelters at Keflavik and Hvalfjordur (Century) and an expansion to the Rio Tinto / Alcan plant at Hafnarfjordur. The implications of this exploitation are far-reaching.

  • Increased power generation means increased noise and industrial visual disturbance to this exceptionally rare and valuable landscape type.
  • Extraction of underground fluids leads to changes in groundwater movements, commonly including drying of unique hot springs and geysers and pollution of pure subsurface spring water.
  • Hot and toxic waste water is either disposed of by pumping it back into the borehole (as at Nesjavellir), commonly increasing the frequency of earthquakes in this very active fault zone, or it is pumped untreated into streams and lakes, wiping out valuable ecosystems as treatment is considered too expensive. The Northern end of lake þingvallavatn is already biologically dead in parts due to wastewater pumping and must be protected from more damage.

Green Energy?
RE and Landsvirkjun justify this tragedy under the guise of ‘green energy’, intended for the expansion of heavily polluting aluminium industry. The Aluminium industry is an environmental and social hazard from start to finish:

  • Mining of bauxite (raw Aluminium) destroys vast areas of tropical forest in Australia and the Amazon.
  • In the smelting countries, sulphur dioxide causes acid rain and potent greenhouse gases lead to climate change. 13 tons of CO2 are produced for every ton of aluminium.
  • The production process results in far more tonnage of pollution than aluminium, including fine red silt containing radioactive elements which cause cancer and silicosis in the developing countries in which they are mined.
  • Emissions of highly toxic fluorides poison fish and all other aquatic life.
  • After smelting, the aluminium is used to build cars, cans and planes and 30% of production goes to the military. ALCOA use the blurb ‘lighter, faster, stronger’ to advertise tanks, missiles, and F16s used to kill and maim civilians in Iraq and other controversial conflicts.
  • Smelters have a limited lifetime. They close after a few decades, leaving communities in disarray. This has happened in the US, in Suriname, Brazil, and many other countries. Geothermal plants are also limited in their lifespan. They are exhausted after a few decades, after which they need an unknown rest period.

Suggesting that Iceland has an ethical duty to sell all it’s energy possibilities, whether green or not, is an insult to our intelligence.

Change
In recent years the public consciousness against such damaging and outdated heavy industry has grown. In September 2006 15,000 people marched in Reykjavik and around the country as the exceptionally beautiful Karahnjukar highlands were finally and tragically drowned. For the third year, Icelandic and international activists have gathered in the wild of this incredible country to protest the blackening of this pure land by heavy industry. We welcome all those who share a love for nature and are willing to stand up against its destruction. Read More

Jul 05 2007

Democracy and Environmental Rationality


Ólafur Páll Jónsson
Reykjavík Grapevine
Issue 7, 31 May 2007

Democracy is hailed as the best form of government, but yet the countries that have been ruled by this best form of government are responsible for the worst consequences in the history of humanity: climate change and other environmental crises threaten the very living conditions of millions of people around the globe and no part of the world will be unaffected. Some people believe that democracy itself is responsible for this severe situation � that democracy as such undermines environmental rationality and plays into superficial and unreasonable preferences while ignoring long term consequences by making environmental decisions subject to procedural standards. In other words, since democracy is primarily about procedures while environmental rationality requires certain outcomes, democracy has no way of guaranteeing environmental rationality.

Read More

Jul 02 2007

Role of River-Suspended Material in the Global Carbon Cycle


Sigurdur R. Gislason, Eric H. Oelkers, and Árni Snorrason

Geological Society of America
Volume 34, Issue 1 (January 2006)
Article: pp. 49–52
Volume 34, Issue 1 (January 2006)
Article: pp. 49–52

Abstract:

1. Institute of Earth Science, University of Iceland, Sturlugata 7, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland, 2. Géochimie et Biogéochimie Experimentale—LMTG/Université Paul Sabatier, 14 rue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France, 3. National Energy Authority, Grensásvegi 9, 108 Reykjavík, Iceland

The reaction of Ca derived from silicate weathering with CO2 in the world’s oceans to form carbonate minerals is a critical step in long-term climate moderation. Ca is delivered to the oceans primarily via rivers, where it is transported either as dissolved species or within suspended material. The relative importance for climate moderation of riverine dissolved Ca vs. suspended Ca transport stems from the total Ca flux and its climate dependence. Data in the literature suggest that, within uncertainty, global riverine dissolved Ca flux is equal to suspended material Ca flux. To determine how these fluxes depend on temperature and rainfall, a 40 yr field study was performed on 4 catchments in northeastern Iceland: Jökulsá á Fjöllum at Grímsstadir, Jökulsá á Dal at Brú, Jökulsá á Dal at Hjardarhagi, and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal at Hóll. Suspended material Ca flux depends more on seasonal and annual temperatures and rainfall variation than does dissolved Ca flux in all four catchments. For example, the average difference between the annual maximum and minimum daily suspended Ca flux for the Jökulsá á Dal at Brú is four orders of magnitude, whereas the difference for dissolved Ca flux is only approximately one order of magnitude. Similarly, the annual dissolved Ca flux for this river varies by a factor of 2.6, whereas its annual suspended Ca flux varies by a factor of 7.1. Because suspended material Ca flux is more dependent on climate, it provides a stronger negative feedback for stabilizing Earth’s temperature through the greenhouse effect. Read More

May 22 2007
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Rising Ecocide: Nests Swallowed by Water at Kárahnjúkar


nest

The surface of Hálslón, the reservoir by Kárahnjúkar dams in Iceland’s eastern highlands, is constantly rising, swallowing nests and eggs laid by geese. The area is the nesting ground for greylag geese amongst numerous other species of rare and endangered birds. At least 500 greylag nests are thought to be at risk.

According to newspaper Morgunbladid, the birds have not yet realized the changes of their summer habitat, which happened when the glacial river Jökulsá á Dal was blocked last autumn to create Kárahnjúkar dam and Hálslón reservoir. This is to provide energy for an ALCOA owned aluminium smelter in nearby fjord, Reydarfjördur.

A protected area, Kringilsárrani, is also being partly drowned and devastated in full by the project. It is the calving ground of a third of Iceland’s reindeer population, which will be displaced.

The Kárahnjúkar area is the most densely vegetated area north of Vatnajökull, the world’s largest non-arctic glacier. Sixty major waterfalls are being destroyed and innumerable unique geological formations drowned, along with the just recently discovered ancient ruins of Reykjasel, about the most important archaeological find in Icelandic history.

The Kárhnjúkar project entails blocking the silt emissions of two massive glacial rivers, Jökulsá á Dal and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal. This will result in the receding of the combined delta of the two rivers. This will destroy a unique nature habitat in the delta and cause the loss of one of Iceland’s major seal colonies.

seal3

The Kárahnjúkar dams are situated on a cluster of active geological fissures. The government withheld geological reports from parliament when voting on the dams took place.

Campos Novos, a dam in Brazil of similar design, cracked in June 2006. Yet, Campos Novos was built on stable ground. Leading Icelandic geologists to consider the Kárahnjúkar dams a major threat to the local population.

The project was opposed by the Icelandic National Planning Agency due to too much irreversible environmental impact and insufficient evidence for the economic benefits of the project. The verdict of the NPA was overruled by the Minister of the Environment, Siv Fridleifsdóttir.

It is typical for the dishonest methods of the National Power Company (Landsvirkjun) that they pretend that the EIA they present on their Kárahnjúkar website is anything other than their own slanted PR job. You can read the real thing here: ‘Conclusion of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Kárahnjúkar Project’ -
The Icelandic National Planning Agency

It is expected that the inundation will be complete in the autumn of 2007. The water levels of the reservoir will fluctuate and the dry dusty silt banks will cause dust storms that will affect the vegetation of over 3000 sq km. It has been estimated that the reservoir will silt up in as little as 40-80 years, leaving a desert where there was one of the most biologically diverse regions of the Icelandic highlands.

So much for the claims of Landsvirkjun and ALCOA that this provides “renewable” and “sustainable” energy!

submerged vegetation

ALCOA are adding insult to injury by demanding another smelter in the north of Iceland. This would entail the destruction of numerous geothermal fields and several major glacial rivers in the north.

ALCOA may think that they will get away with this vandalising of the Icelandic environment and that they can force their presence upon Iceland, against the will of half the nation. They are wrong.

ALCOA are not likely to be forgiven for Kárahnjúkar. Through this project ALCOA have gained many new enemies, both Icelandic and international. In due time these are sure to make ALCOA pay a heavy price for this ecocide.

Beautiful slideshow of the Jokulsa a Bru in all its living wonder, Kárahnjúkar and Töfrafoss in August 2006, just before the inundation. Photos by Christopher Lund. Music by Damien Rice.

For the ecological impact of hydropower reservoirs and glacial rivers see the following articles:

‘Hydropower Disaster for Global Warming’ by Jaap Krater

‘Glacial Rivers Reduce Pollution on Earth’ by Gudmundur Páll Ólafsson

Hydroelectric Power’s Dirty Secret Revealed

For other articles about the environmental impact of the Kárahnjúkar dams see ‘Destroyed Areas’

Campos Novos CU

Campos Novos

May 19 2007

Victory over ALCOA in Brazil!


During a meeting today with the Pará State Secretary of the Environment, Valmir Gabriel Ortega, the State and Federal Public Prosecutors Offices requested cancellation of the environmental license granted to Alcoa to mine bauxite in the municipality of Juruti. In an exclusive interview with the Amazonia website, the coordinator of the State Public Prosecutors Office (MPE) Environmental Center, Prosecutor Raimundo Moraes, explained that the decision to request suspension aims at averting a violent reaction by the local population, which wants the company to leave at any cost, and also to conduct a rigorous review of the license.

Although mining operations are only scheduled to begin in 2008, during public hearings held on May 2nd and 3rd, the community claims that it is already suffering impacts from construction of lodgings for employees of the multinational, a port and a road.

Moraes said, “the impacts are so obvious that Alcoa has not denied any of them. Alcoa said it was correcting the problems and recognized that it does not enjoy good relations with the community”. Moraes, however, stated that the problems run deep and will not be set straight with just repairs.Impacts One of the main complaints raised at the hearings is contamination of the waters in rivers that flow through the town.

Technical studies detected the presence of feces coliforms in Jará Lake, which supplies water to the municipality, and data from the municipal health department show that cases of viral hepatitis, caused by ingesting water contaminated by human feces, jumped from 26 in 2006 to 121 in the first four months of this year. The community accuses Alcoa of not performing proper treatment on sewage from the lodging of its employees. Moreover, Incra representatives present at the meetings presented pictures and other documents that prove that the company is conducting deforestation in areas not authorized inside the Juruti Velho and Socó Agro-extractivist Settlement Projects.

Another complaint is the increased expenses of public agencies, which are faced with increased demands for health, education and infrastructure. “If, after the review is conducted, Alcoa can act correctly, alright, otherwise it would be best for them to leave, as we do not need to bear these costs. It is unfair that they keep the riches produced here and we keep the burdens”, says Moraes.

The prosecutor believes that the population has shown its lack of trust in the company and accuses the multinational of trying to upset the hearings. “They tried to co-opt leaders, offering 10 jobs to each community”.

License

The preliminary license for installation of the Alcoa plant was granted by the State Environmental Council (Coema) in 2005. At the time, the representative of the State Public Prosecutors Office (MPE) voted against the authorization. Soon afterward, the agency, together with the Federal Public Prosecutors Office (MPF), filed a class action suit petitioning for the suspension of the company’s activities in the region.

The hearings this week were attended by the coordinator of the MPE Environmental Center, Prosecutor Raimundo Moraes and Federal Attorney Daniel César Azeredo Avelino, who commands the (Federal Public Prosecutors Office (MPF) in Santarém. Members from both agencies also visited the affected locations.

By Renata Gaspar
Link: http://www.amazonia.org.br

May 02 2007

Environment Minister Bjartmarz Embroiled in Corruption Scandal


Bjartmarz

UPDATE: Voters booted Bjartmarz out of Icelandic politics in the general elections 12 May. But her track record is ugly and Icelandic nature will be smarting for a long time after her dark reign as Minister of the Environment. One of her final crimes against nature was to OK, against all scientific advise, a disastrous road scheme by lake Thingvallavatn in the Thingvellir National Park. This area is on the UNESCO World Heritage list for it’s unique nature. The plan is to build a motorway through the Gjábakka area, much too close to the lake. This road must be resisted and stopped. Read More

Apr 10 2007

Glaciers in Iceland Melting “Faster than Ever”


See also: Alaska rattled by melting ice
 http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18…

Melting ice cap triggering earthquakes http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/20…

Iceland Review
04/10/2007

Oddur Sigurdsson, an Icelandic geologist who has undertaken studies of Iceland’s glaciers, said the nation’s glaciers are melting at record speed and may disappear completely after 200 years due to global warming.

“It is obvious judging by the data that we have that it is first and foremost caused by the heat in summer, which has increased considerably, especially in the last ten years,” Sigurdsson told RÚV.

Sigurdsson said he believed global warming is the gravest problem the human race has ever faced.

French geologist Jean-Marc Bouvier, who has undertaken studies of the Greenland ice cap, explained to RÚV that once the Arctic glaciers have disappeared the ocean surface will be nine meters higher than today and flood an area which is currently inhabited by one billion people.

Bouvier described this situation as a “meteorological time bomb” and said “the wick has already been lit.”

Apr 07 2007
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Volcano Park to Open in Iceland?


Gunnuhver

Iceland Review
04/07/2007

Geologists suggested on March 24 that a volcano park should be established on Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland, which has the potential to become a major tourist attraction.

According to geologist Ásta Thorleifsdóttir, a volcano park on Reykjanes could be larger and have more variety than a similar volcano park in Hawaii, which attracts 3.3 million tourists every year, making USD billions in profits.

“We have much better access on Reykjanes. […] We have the international airport beside it and all these villages that can offer accommodation, entertainment, information, guidance, scientific knowledge and everything else that comes with it,” Thorleifsdóttir told RÚV.

Thorleifsdóttir has researched the volcano park in Hawaii, which is the largest of its kind and is considered the most noteworthy volcano park in the world.

Thorleifsdóttir said the geology of Reykjanes peninsula is unique. There is a lot of volcanic activity with numerous shield volcanoes, volcanic fissures, craters and hot springs.

“There are few places on earth like it. Only us who live close by don’t realize that if we want to show foreign tourists something unique we don’t have to go further than to Kleifarvatn and Krísuvík,” Thorleifsdóttir said.

Brennisteinsfjoll