Sunday, June 20, 2010

Niceland # 18 - Icelandic Socialism

Iceland’s Eastern Highlands one of the largest unspoiled wildernesses in Europe. These untouched areas of public property have been largely destroyed by foreign companies Alcoa, Landsvirkjun and Impregilo. Through the Icelandic natioanl government, these companies purchased public property from the Icelandic state at extremely low prices and were granted government subsities to build in these untouched areas known for its unique environmental value and beauty. This decision has become a highly controversial subject in Iceland as it touches on ownership rights of state owned property,  the immorality of state owned property, state subsidies of foreign companies, and the lack of transparency in  the Icelandic government system. Outside of Iceland, the collection of unique natural landscapes destroyed by foreign energy companies has been widely criticized for its environmental effects and the Icelandic governments association with infamously dirty foreign companies.

The US company is the world’s largest producer of aluminium, serves the most industries as well as producing ‘bacofoil’. While the company is known as one of the major polluters, it undertakes replanting projects over former destroyed forest land. The attempt cannot compensate for the loss old eco-system, resulting in substantial erosion of topsoil.

Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant 
The hydroelectric power plant is located in eastern part of Iceland, designed to produce 4,600 GWh annually for the Alcoa Fjardaál aluminum smelter in the east in Reyðarfjörður. The Kárahnjúkastífla Dam is the centerpiece of the five dams and the largest of its type in Europe, standing 193 metres (633 ft) tall with a length of 730 metres (2,400 ft) and comprising 8.5 million cubic metres (300×106 cu ft) of material. The project involved damming the Jökulsá á Dal River and the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal River with five dams, creating three reservoirs. Water from the reservoirs is then diverted through 73 kilometres (45 mi) of underground water tunnels and down a 420-metre (1,380 ft) vertical penstock towards a single underground power station. The smelter became fully operational in 2008 and the hydro-power project was completed in 2009.

Dreamland is a book and documentary of Andri Snaer Magnason's critique against the current decision taken by the Icelandic government to build out Iceland's rivers in order to produce energy that can be delivered to aluminium factories. Magnason describes how Iceland's government actively have pursued the idea to attract foreign aluminium companies to Iceland with the promise of the "cheapest energy in the world". The government advertisement described Iceland's energy potential as 30 TWh/year. Magnason argues in the book that in order to accomplish this, the majority of Iceland's rivers would need to be exploited, with the consequence that some of Iceland's most known waterfalls such as Dettifoss which is Europe's most powerful waterfall, and Gullfoss which together with Thingvellir and Geyser makes up the golden circle.

It is set up as a series of thoughts on issues in modern Iceland and the past Iceland and deals heavily with the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Project and other similar works being done. It was the best sold book in Iceland in 2006 and raised Icelanders' interest in environmentalism by a large amount. In the book the Icelandic nation is encouraged to look to more "futuristic" types of business than aluminium processing and to stop believing that they can't do anything for themselves

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