‘Moon landing’ faces more delays

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s much-hyped “moon landing,” which is what he called Norway’s effort to fully recapture carbon emissions at Norwegian power plants, won’t happen any time soon. More concerns over health issues and technological challenges mean problems are lining up.

A "moon landing" for the Kårstø plant doesn't look imminent. PHOTO: Statoil/Øyvind Hagen

News emerged this week that Stoltenberg had been warned against using the “moon landing” phrase in his now-famous New Year’s speech of 2007. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that Norway’s cabinet minister in charge of oil and energy at the time, Aslaug Haga, urged Stoltenberg to cut the line from his speech, because it could create expectations that were too high and embarrassment if the project proved too difficult to complete.

That’s exactly what’s happening now, as Norway’s efforts to be the first to develop technology that would cleanse emissions of their carbon dioxide keep meeting trouble. Work continues on the technology center at Statoil’s Mongstad plant north of Bergen, and ceremonies were held there last week, but the technology itself is far from ready and Stoltenberg didn’t attend.

His government had claimed a gas power plant at Kårstø would be recapturing carbon by 2009, presumably using the Mongstad technology. That didn’t happen, and now there are fears the Kårstø project will be scrapped.

“We have to get this to work at Mongstad, then we’ll take a position on Kårstø,” the cabinet minister in charge of environmental issues, Erik Solheim, told Dagbladet.no this week.

Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen, who’s been under fire for not revealing delays at Mongstad earlier this year, told newspaper Aftenposten that the Kårstø project will be evaluated in accordance with Norway’s overall goals to reduce climate emissions. Critics have long complained that Norway, as an oil-producing nation, is far more keen to pay for emission cuts elsewhere in the world than it is to cut them at home.

The Socialist Left party, arguably the most environmentally minded of the three making up Norway’s coalition government, is relying on Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen’s statement earlier this week that the Kårstø project hasn’t been scrapped.

Stoltenberg claims he continues to believe in the carbon recapture plans, and he defends his “moon landing” analogy.

“I still think the term ‘moon landing’ gives a good picture of the technological jump we will make,” he told DN.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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