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Swedish government embraces peak oil and looks towards biofuels

The Swedish Prime Minister, Göran Persson, has founded a non-political committee with the intent of making Sweden fossil fuel-independent by 2020.

The members of the committee include Professor Christian Azar of Chalmers University of Technology, Leif Johansson, CEO of Volvo Group, makers of trucks, buses and heavy machinery, Birgitta Johansson Hedberg, CEO of the Swedish Farmers Supply and Crop Marketing Association and Christer Segersten, chairman of the Södra member-owned forestry group as well as representatives for the energy sector and industry.

The committee will study and propose measures and mitigation over the next six months, and will present their findings and suggestions this summer.

An initial hearing in front of an assembled audience of journalists and other interested people were held 13:th of December. As a public government hearing it is available as a series of TV web casts from the Swedish government's website.

The hearing began with a speech the Prime Minister stating that we are about to experience the oil peak and so need to assess measures to mitigate its effects and to transform society to adapt to this, including looking on how transport and car use will look in the future. PM Persson underscored that Sweden is very fortunate to have vast agricultural and forestry resources, and to have excellent access to fresh water and no need for irrigation.

After the Prime Minister, ASPO chairman Kjell Aleklett gave a short lecture introducing peak oil to the assembled audience, and he was followed by the CEO of the Swedish Petroleum Association and professor Sven Kullander of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. After lunch there were lectures on climate change by professor Christian Azar and Gunn Persson of Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, and statements from committee members, including Volvo CEO Leif Johansson. Volvo has done research into future fuels for commercial vehicles and mentioned peak oil before, and is converting one of it's factories to 100% renewable energy.

The general theme of the hearing was one of Swedish style consensus and non-confrontation, and one can but assume that biofuels, both for transport and electricity generation and heating will be the focus of the committees work.

Today Sweden gets almost all of it's electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric power, and mostly relies on fossil fuels only for transport; most of the heating has been converted to electric space heating, biofuels and waste recycling, with a small percentage remains fossil fuelled. A 1980 referendum decided that nuclear power is to be phased out, although this has been severely delayed so far, with the exception of the mothballing of the Barsebäck 1 and 2 reactors.

Recently there has been trend in Sweden towards increased sales of flexifuel E85 (ethanol) vehicles and fuel, and there are projects underway increase native production of ethanol and synthetic fuels from forest industry waste.

Perhaps doing some planning of his own, the Prime Minister Göran Persson, has acquired a large forest property and manor, beautifully located on an inland lake peninsula.

Material in Swedish may be found at:

Comittee members pressrelease:
www.regeringen.se/sb/d/6023/a/53852
Pressrelease and agenda for the hearing:
www.regeringen.se/sb/d/6075/a/54870Webcast:
www.regeringen.se/sb/d/6107/a/54880

Editorial Notes: Another report of same from UPI.

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