Palace apologizes over car blunder

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Staff at the Royal Palace in Oslo got caught in an embarrassing pollution blunder on Tuesday, which has set off an active online debate over royal commitment to the environment.

Crown Prince Haakon speaking at the renewable energy conference in Lillestrøm on Tuesday. PHOTO: Kongehuset.no/Scanpix

It all started when Crown Prince Haakon was driven in one of the palace cars, a Cadillac, to an exhibition hall in Lillestrøm north of Oslo, where he’d been asked to make the keynote speech at the North European Renewable Energy Convention. Norway’s crown prince has become a social activist of sorts in recent years, speaking often on issues including climate change and the environment, and this time his audience was around 3,000 energy experts from some 30 countries in Europe.

While Haakon was inside talking about the importance of renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions, though, his chauffeur had left the motor running on the Cadillac. According to news bureau ANB, the car was left idling for as long as 90 minutes, spewing out exhaust and burning fuel.

A local organization called Miljøagentene, which engages children and youth in environmental issues, has been carrying on a campaign against vehicle idling, which is prohibited in many Scandinavian cities and towns. The organization claims that if a car is standing still for more than 20 seconds, it’s best for both the driver’s wallet and the environment if it’s turned off.

“We aren’t angry, just very, very disappointed,” Eirik Jagmann of Miljøagentene told ANB. He said that the royals and their staff are supposed to set a standard for environmental correctness, “so it’s just so stupid that they are so thoughtless. Letting a car’s motor run creates the world’s most unnecessary pollution.”

Crown Prince Haakon himself can’t be blamed for the car idling, since it was his driver who left the motor running. “It shouldn’t have happened,” the communications chief at the palace, Marianne Hagen, told ANB. “It was an oversight.”

Hagen noted that royal bodyguards are on alert when members of the royal family are making public appearances, but that it wasn’t necessary for their cars to remain running while they wait.

Media reports of the incident set off a lengthy online debate, with some decrying so-called “limousine liberals” who don’t practice what they preach while others defended the crown prince. “I’ve been in doubt about the crown prince’s environmental commitment,” wrote one participant in the debate on NRK.no. “But this wasn’t his fault.”

See Crown Prince Haakon’s speech here. (external link)

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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