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Norway Will Not Ban Gas & Diesel Car Sales

Originally published on Renewables International.
By Craig Morris

Just when you thought Twitter was only good for cat GIFs comes a tweet from Norway’s Climate Minister confirming that the global media have gotten the story all wrong.

It all started in English with this report at entitled “Norway has reportedly reached a deal to ban gas-powered car sales by 2025.” Elon Musk’s (of Tesla) tweet celebrating the news is also cited – and to be fair, the report says “the details are in some dispute.”

The source of the confusion is an article in Norwegian (in these days of browser translators, not an insurmountable obstacle) behind a paywall (okay, never mind). The Twitter swarm agrees that the Norwegian report is confusing. And the swarm handed me up the chain of command to Norwegian Climate Minister Vidar Helgesen, who tweeted what all of my other Norwegian contacts had already said.

Anders Bjartnes, editor of Norsk Klimastiftelse/Energi og Klima, helped me understand the issue by email: “the target will be backed up by a series of efforts (taxes, subsidies, charging stations, hydrogen infrastructure, differentiated rush-hour taxes, etc.) to maintain high speed in the transition.” He also quoted Norwegian MP Ola Elvestuen of the Liberal Party (since “liberal” practically has no clear meaning in English, see this description of the party):

“I am a liberal politician and don’t support the use of force to get rid of petrol and diesel cars. The goal is to make zero/low-omission cars so attractive that people choose them.”

Bjartnes also says that diesel & gasoline cars have already fallen below 50% of new sales in the Hordaland/Bergen area (for reasons we will have to come back to in a future article).

So there you have it: Norway is not going to prohibit its citizens from buying new diesel/gasoline cars, but it will implement progressive policies to encourage a transition towards electric vehicles. That’s great news, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t add the following:

  • Norway continues to extract as much carbon from the ground as possible even as we all praise it for its progress in sexy issues that go viral. Because we count carbon emissions at the end of the pipe rather than the point of extraction, Musk and Co. may never mention Norway’s giant new gas venture in Iran. (They get to make a profit selling it to you, and you’re the bad guy for consuming it.)
  • All of these incentives will eventually have to be done away with. Once electric vehicles make up a large share of the car fleet, we cannot have them not paying tolls anywhere, traveling for free on ferries, parking everywhere for free, etc. The foregone revenue is eventually too great. We need a different kind of taxation.
  • Electric cars are still cars, and there is no place for them in a 2,000-Watt Society.
  • Electric cars are still cars, and they clog up our streets. We need far fewer cars. A shift from private ownership to participation in (possibly self-driving) fleets will be crucial here.
  • Electric cars are a patch for the problem of urban sprawl. Fix urban sprawl, and you don’t need so many electric cars.

… says the happy owner of a new electric bicycle – another issue we will have to come back to in a future post.

Reprinted with permission.

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