Posted by: Martin Fox | September 9, 2008

Iceland’s commitment to renewable resources

Wow, the following article came across my computer this morning. David Yarnold, Executive Director of the Environmental Defense Fund, shares some cool information (in this case warm informatiuon).

Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership

What Iceland Can Teach America – by David Yarnold, Executive Director

I traveled to Iceland this summer to explore that nation’s unique use of alternative energy sources.

It was like journeying through time as much as space—as though we had gone back a full century to when the human impact on the environment wasn’t so harsh.

And yet while Iceland’s otherworldly landscape evokes prehistoric times, the small island nation’s energy use is state–of-the-art.

Iceland’s commitment to harnessing renewable energy resources is absolutely inspirational. Their use of geothermal power is groundbreaking.

As much as 70% of Iceland’s total energy (and 100% of its electricity and heat) comes from renewable energy. This is the highest percentage of any country in the world and puts Iceland on track to meet its goal of providing 100% of its energy needs from zero-emission renewable energy sources before mid-century.

To complete their mission, Iceland plans to use geothermal electricity to split hydrogen from water and use hydrogen fuel cells for its fishing fleets and transportation sector, the last industries in Iceland still using fossil fuels.

The Iceland story shows what’s possible and serves as an example of what’s possible here in the U.S. if our leaders take action.

t’s true that Iceland’s geography and geology is much different than America’s. It’s a small island in the middle of the Atlantic, sitting atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is home to hundreds of volcanoes and hot springs.

Icelanders are therefore blessed with rich geothermal and hydroelectric resources. But so is America.

A 2006 MIT study concluded that about 100 Gigawatts of economically viable energy could be developed in the lower 48 states. That’s enough energy to power 50 million homes.

Iceland’s ability to tap their renewable energy resources and maintain a modern, growing economy is a remarkable case study in how we can break free from our addiction to fossil fuels.

During my trip, my wife and daughter joined me for a visit to Iceland’s remote Northwest. There, our guide led us across rugged open lands to the very edge of a tall cliff overlooking the cold north Atlantic.

We peered cautiously over the edge and were dazzled to see that the cliff was home to an incredible sea bird colony. I found I was mere inches from an Atlantic puffin, which was gazing back at me with an expression of mild curiosity.

Iceland has taken care to protect its wildlife from exotic predators; so this puffin with its absurdly oversized and colorful beak knew it had no reason to fear me. And so we looked at each other. Next to me, my 12-year-old daughter Nicole was breathless with wonder.

I’d wanted Nicole to see an unspoiled part of the world —and here we were. That one cliff was a reminder of all that we’ve already lost due to carelessness and environmental abuse, and, at the same time, it was a symbol of all that we can regain.

That’s when I was reminded once again on a most personal level why our work is so important and why it is so important for America to follow Iceland’s lead toward a clean, renewable energy future.

And to get there, we need a national cap on global warming pollution to unleash our clean energy inventors and spur technological innovation.


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