Sweden ‘will reduce oil dependency’

Sweden will not be an oil-free zone by 2020, the government has admitted. But Sweden's prime minister, Göran Persson, said that there will be sufficient alternatives that no section of society will be dependent on fossil fuels.

Persson presented the report “The road towards an oil-free Sweden,” on Wednesday, but refused to be drawn into saying when the country would actually stop using oil altogether.

But the report by Persson’s Oil Commission proposed four measures which it said could be achieved by 2020.

“We won’t have done away with oil altogether by 2020, but we will not be dependent on oil in any sector, in the sense that there are no alternatives,” Persson said.

The commission’s first aim is for energy use to be around 20 percent more effective by 2020.

By that point, homes and workplaces should be heated entirely without oil.

The commission also proposed that road transport should have reduced its use of gasoline and diesel by 40-50 percent by 2020. Industry should have reduced its use of oil by between 25 and 40 percent.

Achieving the aims will require major investment from industry and the state. The commission said that the state should invest heavily in high-speed train tracks between Sweden’s major cities.

Tax money should also be used to provide incentives for making buildings more energy-efficient and for encouraging people to drive cars with low fuel consumption or which use alternative fuels. The report also proposes making deductions from property tax dependent of how energy-efficient a building is.

The commission recommends more effective rules for the transport sector, including a carbon dioxide link to vehicle tax, giving tax breaks to fuel efficient company cars and new energy and CO2 taxes on fuel.

The commission also says that production of fuel from the Swedish forestry industry and agriculture must increase. Sweden’s forests need to produce between 15-20 percent more in the long term, something the commission says can be achieved by more effective management.

Some 300,000 – 500,000 hectares of arable land was identified as suitable for growing energy crops or trees.

The commission said that Sweden should produce 12-14 terawatt hours of biofuel a year from its forests and agricultural land.

Persson said the commission’s recommendations would form an important part of his program, if his Social Democrats are still in government after the election.

The commission, appointed in December 2005, included Persson himself, AB Volvo’s CEO Leif Johansson, former chairman of the Metall union Göran Johansson and Professor Christian Azar of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.

The commission was united on all questions apart from the issue of whether there should be protective tariffs on ethanol produced outside the EU.