Prostituting nature for Alcoa

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Jul 16 10:20:44 MDT 2002

NY Times, July 16, 2002

An Icelandic Battle of Wildlife Versus Voltage

NORTH OF VATNAJOKULL GLACIER, Iceland — This is Europe's second-largest
wilderness, a high plateau of lakes and virgin rivers, jagged canyons and
snowy former volcanoes linked by swards of treeless tundra inhabited by
thousands of reindeer and geese. 

It is also the alpine spillway for billions of gallons of glacial melt that
Iceland's national power company plans to use in the $3 billion Karahnjukar
Hydropower Project, an undertaking so big it equals nearly a third of the
country's gross domestic product. 

The wildlife-versus-voltage battle has been fought on the banks of many of
the world's rivers. But it is being played out here on epic scale across an
extraordinary landscape. 

The power plant to be built will have one customer: an aluminum smelter
owned by Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum company, which is considering
investing $1 billion. 

Alcoa entered the picture only in April, and is hoping to conclude price
negotiations with Iceland's government and national power company this week
so that work can begin next month, during the short summer. But schemes to
dam the area for hydropower have been in the works for decades and have
been fought in a see-saw battle for just as long. 

Asked why Alcoa would want to enter such a fight, Jake Siewert, an Alcoa
spokesman, noted that the company had found "a broad coalition" welcoming
it to Iceland. It had considered other locations, including India, Brazil
and Vietnam, he said, adding that it would meet opposition anywhere. 


Louis Proyect
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