IMAGE: Imagestock — 123RF

What does it take to get rid of fossil fuels?

Norway’s four main political parties, from across the political spectrum, have agreed on a new energy policy that would lead to a total ban on the sale of diesel and petrol engined cars, including hybrids, by 2025. From that year on, no more ICE age (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles will be sold, and all vehicles must be electric or hydrogen powered.

The move has been welcomed enthusiastically on Twitter by the founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, who sold more than 50,000 of his electric-powered vehicles in 2015. This year in Norway, sales of electric vehicles are expected to increase 24 percent, making up a third of the car fleet. Norway is the only country in the world where the Tesla Model S has been the top-selling new car.

The Scandinavian country’s decision is mirrored by the Netherlands, which is also debating a total ban on diesel and petrol engined cars by 2025 (although its parliament is divided on the move). India too, wants an all-electric car fleet in the whole country by 2030. But Norway’s case is particularly important, given that it is a major oil producer while at the same time a pioneer in the use of renewable energy: just about all electricity is completely clean and renewable, generated by hydro-electric power stations.

Norway’s policy of tax incentives for electric vehicles has generated a fast increase in the market share of this type of cars. The tax exemptions mean that these vehicles now cost about the same as traditional internal combustion cars, which are heavily taxed. Electric vehicles also have preferential parking in cities and can use bus lanes, as well as travel free on the many ferries that connect its islands and coastal communities, and not having to pay on toll roads.

Owners of diesel and petrol vehicles in Oslo frequently complain that they cannot find a parking space and that bus lanes are now filled with electric cars (which was actually one of the intended effects of the policy); and ferry operators say they are losing money. The incentives have been criticized, and although they were due originally to last only until 2017 or until 50,000 electric vehicles were on the road, whichever comes first, the policy has now been extended until 2018.

The pro-electric car policy is undoubtedly radical, but is both responsible and necessary. Fossil fuels have proved a historical mistake of titanic proportions and the sooner we can do without them, the better for everybody.

(En español, aquí)

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