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WHY EVER should Iceland, perched at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, have a viable business of producing aluminum, even importing the ore all the way from Australia? One reason is energy, as Iceland is also on the junction of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
This country, about the size of Ohio, is extremely rich in geothermal as well as hydro energy. Bjarni Mar Gylfason, chief economist for the Federation of Icelandic Industries, noted that this allows them “to export energy in the form of aluminum.”
Iceland’s aluminum smelting industry consumes five times the electrical energy of the country’s entire population. It also employs some 1400 of these 320,000 Icelanders.
Commercial fishing used to be Iceland’s biggest export, but aluminum smelting overtook this in 2008.
Not without controversy, though. Environmentalists—including pop star Björk—have questioned the tradeoffs of industry versus the country’s fragile ecology. Some even say its geothermal supplies might be exhausted.
Though I certainly claim no inside information, Iceland’s on-going tectonic activity suggests it’ll be in the aluminum business for quite some time.
Check out the Dellow and A Bit of Aluminum nearby. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012