by MONITOR
IN his State of the Union speech last week President Bush announced plans to wean the United States from its dependence on oil “coming from unstable states” in 20 years. Earlier this week the Swedish government said that it plans to find ways of doing wihout oil completely within 15 years, and to do so without resorting to a programme of new nuclear power station construction. Sweden has certain advantages over other countries in making this bold bid; it gets almost all its electricity from hydro-electric and nuclear power and relies on oil only for transport. Overall, more than one-quarter of Sweden's energy supply comes from renewable sources, whereas the EU average is as low as six per cent. However, Sweden's example could have an effect even on countries that cannot hope to emulate its aim of total non-dependence on oil. In the past it has shown what can be achieved by national consensus and determined joint action; in the 1970s when oil prices began to rise, 77 per cent of the country's energy came from oil whereas today it represents less than onethird of its supplies. For the bid to create an oil-free country Sweden has set up a committee of industrialists, famers, car makers, academics and civil servants to plan ways of replacing all fossil fuels with renewables before climate change sets in. Could Britain show the same sense of purpose in dealing with its anti-global warming responsibilities and developing more energy generation that it can control? A report last week said that Britain has “the best wind, wave and tidal resources, yet it continues to miss out on its economic potential”. Yet another government review of energy resources is under way and is expected to recommend heavy investment in nuclear power. What the UK could learn from Sweden, apart from technical know–how, is the ability to bring all parts of the community together to deal with a pressing national problem.