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Iceland wants to know: “who needs coal when you have FIRE?”

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A quick check-in from the road. Occasionally I see ads in different countries that give perspective on how that country views energy and I try to snag pictures if I can. These two ads offer a juxtaposition of resources and current energy issues.

Here’s a wall display in Keflavík airport (about 50 km southwest of the capital Reykjavík): “who needs coal when you have fire?”

I have learned that Icelanders are proud of their country and geothermal energy is something they are indeed proud of, making the cold land more hospitable, but also enabling a tourism industry with the likes of hot springs like the Blue Lagoon (which is actually supplied by the produce water from a nearby geothermal plant).

For an island nation like Iceland, it is fortunate to have abundant natural resources.

Next up is an ad at a bus stop in downtown Washington, DC: “America and Canada: friends, neighbors, allies”. The subtext gets right into it: “America’s choice: import oil from Canada [...] or choose less stable offshore sources with weaker environmental standards”.

You can make a compelling argument for or against importing Canadian fossil fuels, and this ad hopes to sway you (or the regulator) on the commute to work.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? david.m.wogan@gmail.com Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. sault 3:33 pm 08/27/2013

    I’ve seen some crazy ads in DC. Every political group from mainstream to fringe and all the corporate groups inbetween seem to advertise on the Metro or bus stops. I wonder if they actually sway people or if they’re just put up to keep issues in people’s mind, especially influential lawmakers or congressional staffers that might see them…

    As for importing oil from Canada, they may deliver 2.4 million bpd of heavy crude to U.S. refineries, but notice they don’t say they deliver it to “American Motorists”. This is because a lot of Canadian oil imports, and most certainly the added capacity of Keystone XL and other pipelines from up north, are mostly destined for Gulf Coast refineries where the finished products will be overhwelmingly exported. That’s right, we won’t even be using all that much oil from Keystone XL because rapid fuel demand growth in countries like China means oil companies can get better prices and returns on their infrastructure investments. The flat to declining demand growth in transportation fuels that the USA has experienced over the last several years is a sure sign that Tar Sands oil is headed elsewhere. In fact, many studies have determined that Keystone XL will RAISE fuel prices across the country somewhat since it will alleviate the glut of Tar Sands crude in the Midwestern U.S., driving up prices there a great deal.

    So in short, we put our prime farm land and the largest fresh water aquifer in the USA under risk of oil spills just so oil companies can make more money shipping oil products to other countries. Sounds like a bad deal to me.

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