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Iceland: Energy To Spare, Ideas to Share


Some Americans say fossil fuel dependency is a national addiction. But there is one nation that seems well on the way to kicking the habit.

Iceland is a 103,000 square kilometer island nation that is home to about 300,000 people. And it has energy to spare. It is a volcanic country. Molten rock heats huge underground lakes. That geothermal energy is piped into cities and stored in giant tanks, providing heat for homes, businesses even swimming pools.

Volcanoes formed rivers that run through turbines, providing virtually all the country's electricity. Iceland is developing hydrogen fuel from water for its cars, buses, and trucks -- decreasing its dependency on oil. It is still expensive, but hydrogen gets three times the kilometers per liter of gas powered engines. And there are no carbon emissions, only water vapor.

Marie Maack is a research consultant with the Hydrogen Research Project. "If we make hydrogen and use that as a fuel for transportation then we can run the whole society in our own local renewable energy resources."

"This country now has the sixth highest per capita income in the world and I think this is an indication that countries that start thinking smart in energy are going to do this" Maack added.

John Topping of the non-profit Climate Institute recently returned from environmental talks there and says that Iceland is involved with helping other countries use energy more wisely. "Iceland is now involved, helping very much the Chinese build a very large geothermal facility in Seine province in China. A bank from Iceland is providing some of the financing and there are also a lot of people from India as well. In the two most populated countries in the world are ultimately going to have a lot to do with any kind of success of any kind of a solution to climate change."

They were here in this small country," continued Topping, "a country of only 300,000 people -- Iceland. They're working to see what they could pick up and the Icelanders, who really are, right now, the most creative country in the world on the energy issue -- [they] were really helping to make this happen."

Iceland is doing away with gas powered cars by the middle of the century. It is committed to showing the world that it is possible to find viable energy alternatives to oil.

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