Global environmental challenges
Norway’s finance minister wants to ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars from 2015.From then, Kristin Halvorsen (pictured left, in red jacket) says that new cars should be powered by alternative fuels such as electricity, biofuels or hydrogen or at least be hybrids, for instance able to use both gasoline and electricity.I went and spoke to her at the weekend about her proposal (for a story click here) — she reckons that it’s realistic even though it has little chance of becoming law even in a Nordic country that says it is a leader in fighting global warming. She says she’s the only finance minister in the world arguing for such a ban.She says people have grown too fond of cars powered by fossil fuels - treating them “like a member of the family” – and need tougher action to slow climate change.But her Socialist Left Party is only a junior partner in the three-party cabinet and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg does not support her party’s proposal. And some opposition parties accuse her of “climate populism” – latching onto public concern about global warming ahead of elections due in September.So is the ban a good idea?
As part of my job covering the world of alternative fuels, General Motors last week gave me the keys to a hydrogen-powered SUV, the Chevrolet Equinox. You won’t find the Equinox in any showrooms, and in fact, the car I drove for four days is one of just 100 such vehicles in the United States.
Despite their small numbers, GM and others hope hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles will be critical to reducing greenhouse gases and our dependence on ever-costlier gasoline. Hydrogen can be produced by breaking apart water molecules, and it is also made by stripping hydrogen from fossil fuel natural gas. To see an animation of how a fuel cell works, click here.