The smallest aluminium smelter in Iceland uses 50% more electricity than all of Iceland’s households and businesses combined, while contributing very little to the country’s GDP. Heavy industry has often been touted by Icelandic conservatives as a cash cow: foreign companies can provide the country with jobs, while utilising Iceland’s green energy to produce aluminium in a cleaner fashion. While the myth of the “green smelter” has been definitively put to rest, aluminium is still billed by some as being good for the economy. However, Vilhjálmur Þorsteinsson – the chair of a study group assembled by the Ministry of Industry that studies Iceland’s energy use – has come to some damning conclusions about smelters in Iceland. Iceland’s three aluminium smelters – Alcoa in Reyðarfjörður, Norðurál in Grundartangi, and Alcan in Straumsvík – consume approximately 13 terawatt hours of electricity. The entire capacity of Iceland’s electrical output is 17 terawatt hours. Furthermore, Straumsvík – the smallest smelter in the country – uses 3.6 terawatt hours. The combined total energy consumption of every home and business in Iceland (apart from the smelters) equals only 2.3 terawatt hours. At the same time, even the best estimates of what smelters contribute to the economy only put them in the neighbourhood of contributing to 5% of the GDP. Tourism accounts for about the same percentage of the GDP while using far less of the power grid. Meanwhile, Iceland’s service sector accounts for 69.9% of its GDP, and fishing accounts for 12%.
Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson told parliament he was very surprised by the harsh criticisms the proposed budget has received from labour unions. RÚV reports that Social Democrat MP Árni Páll Árnason asked the Prime Minister what his response was to yesterday’s statement from the Confederation of Icelandic Labour Unions (ASÍ) on the proposed 2015 budget. The Prime Minister said the response surprised him and “came out of nowhere”. He contends that the proposed budget was crafted with the aim of helping Icelandic households, adding that the response was especially surprising “considering ASÍ president [Gylfi Arnbjörnsson] expressed great displeasure throughout
Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson told parliament that he was unsure whether now is the time to engage in sanctions against Israel. MBL reports that the Minister, responding to a question from Social Democrat MP (and former Foreign Minister) Össur Skarphéðinsson on whether or not Iceland should start sanctions or embargos against Israel, was hesitant at best about the idea. “Regarding whether the time has come to initiate sanctions or an embargo against Israel, I am not sure if this is the right thing to do at this stage,” he said. “I’m not sure about that.” However, the
The cloud of SO2 emanating from the Holuhraun eruption is moving both further west and further south. The Icelandic Met Office reports that the SO2 from the Holuhraun eruption has already spread over a large portion of the country. Currently, it covers a large portion of central Iceland, extending northwest to Blönduós and east across northern Vatnajökull. Tomorrow, however, the distribution of SO2 is forecast to look a lot like the above illustration. As can be seen, the SO2 is spreading, and extending further south and west, and reaching the southeast coast. However, bear in mind that SO2 levels are
Vísir reports that the heirs of a man who died 27 years ago —his grandchildren, more precisely— are now being charged, for a student loan that the man’s stepson took, and for which the now deceased man then signed as guarantor. The Ghost of Systems Past In recent years, some changes have been made to the Icelandic student loan system. Most notably, in 2009, the left-left Alþingi majority abolished the requirement of a third party guarantor. Until then, the requirement meant that a prospectful student needed the signature of someone with a clean financial record, who thereby assumed responsibility in
Several members of parliament have table a motion to introduce subtitles on all visual media content, reports Vísir. Currently it is only compulsory to subtitle foreign language content in Iceland but the MP’s believe that all content, including Icelandic news, films and television programmes should be subtitled as well. The motion has been put together by MP’s from 3 different parties and aims to enhance media services for the deaf and hard of hearing. Additionally, the motion argues the subtitles would help foreigners and new residents learn Icelandic. This is the second time this motion has been put to Iceland’s
Malaysian Airlines have slammed a satirical article claiming that one of their flights was forced to make an emergency landing after flying over the Holuhraun eruption, reports RÚV. On Monday, satirical news site, World News Daily Report, published a fake article claiming that Malaysia Airlines flight MH131 was forced to make an emergency landing in Iceland after the plane’s navigation systems were damaged by heat and debris from the eruption. The article added that the pilots of the Boeing 777 aircraft were instructed to fly almost directly over the volcano despite warnings from the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Malaysia Airlines,