Geiranger’s Dilemma

When we got on the tender in Geiranger it was 30 degrees (minus 1 Celsius) and there were a few snow flurries, although no accumulation.  There was snow not too far up the mountains and a local told us that this was not a normal late May day.  In fact, last week it got up to 22 degrees, (a shade under 72).  But I had layers and, although it was mostly overcast, we enjoyed our day.

Gerianger is facing a dilemma of sorts.  It is in a very steep fjord (for instance the ship can’t pick up satellite signals for Internet, although our mobile internet is working fine).  Locals want to limit emissions in this deep valley and the city has proposed banning cruise ships that burn fossil fuel in the fjord.  I can see the point, there are two ships moored to buoys in the fjord today with diesel’s running and fleets of little tenders scooting back and forth between Gerianger and the ship.  On the other hand, there are no electric cruise ships yet and the town’s economy depends on the more than 150 cruise ship calls a summer (Some years approaching 200).   Modern ships have diesel motors that turn generators which provide power to electric motors on Azipods, pods that hang below the hull with props on them.  They can turn 360 degrees making the ships very maneuverable.  But none of the new Azipod ships have batteries big enough to power them into and out of the steepest part of the fjord, at least not yet.  

I’ve mentioned that Norway is working hard to become a carbon free society.  They say they want to ban new gas-powered cars by 2025, they already generate electricity completely carbon free.  Flåm is experimenting with an electric ferry and there is all manner of electric bikes, motor scooters and scooters on the streets.  Flåm. Ålesund, and Geiranger have fleets of little Renault electric cars for rent. Many of the cabs we see now are Toyota Priuses.  The Norwegians brag a lot about their progress toward a no carbon society, but it seems a bit sanctimonious because all this expense is being funded by selling oil to other countries to burn.   It reeks on NIMBYism. 

But Norwegians are cracking down on cruise ships short of banning non-electric ships.  They’re imposing heavy pollution taxes and this is forcing the cruise lines to burn cleaner fuel and exact stronger pollution controls.  I don’t think the cruise companies like this.  Our narrator on a cruise into the fjords said “And nobody where the tax money we pay goes.”  That is a gratuitous insult.  Norway has an open and transparent budget.  Perhaps he meant to say “the Norwegians spend the tax money as it suits them, not as directed by the cruise companies,” which is what happens in Alaska. 

The cruise companies took Juneau to court and using a Federal law and a clause in the Constitution forced Juneau (and presumably other ports) to only spend the cruise ship tax money on things directly related to the ships.  Communities want to spend cruise ship money on general infrastructure, like roads worn down more quickly by bus traffic caused by cruise ship buses.  In the agreement made with Juneau the cruise companies will, in effect, have a veto over spending the money on things the cruise companies don’t like.  Perhaps this is what the snarky comment about Norway’s tax is about.  Well good for Norway.

I wanted to try one of the little electric Renaults but they are two seaters, one seat in front of the other.  If I were driving, I would have to pull back the front seat far enough to crush Suzi.  Se we passed and took the Geiranger hop on hop off bus.  The bus is diesel but whenever the driver stopped for a hop on or hop off, he killed the engine.  No idling allowed.

There’s not a lot to see in the town besides shopping and a church, but outside there are scenic viewpoints (one with a sculpture called “Queen Sonja’s Chair” and one at a hotel that was a favorite of German Keiser Wilhelm II who seems quite popular in this part of Norway), waterfalls, mountain farms and the Fjord Center, an interpretive center that shows life in the Fjords over history, how the fjords were formed by glaciers and erosion, how people came to settle the fjords and how they developed a subsistence and then trading economy.  This particular fjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

From the Fjord Center there’s a trail down the mountain, including 327 steps, that runs along, and over a cascading river, you could call it a water fall but it’s not always free falling.  The person at the center warned us we would get wet but after a coffee and some waffles with sour cream and raspberry preserve, we took it.   It was a great walk.  When we got down, we walked through the town and took the bus back up again.  One of the sights we can see from the bus is a knot that was recently untied.  Until recently Norwegian roads climbed mountains buy going under a bridge, making a 270 degree turn and going back over the bridge it just went under.  Such knots were common when we drove these roads in 1968.  Now, as new highways bypass the knots, they become tourist attractions. 

Finally a note of caution. Take the warning signs near waterfalls seriously.

One thought on “Geiranger’s Dilemma

  1. If cruise ships can claim rights as to how their taxes are spent what about if I don’t want my taxes to subsidize oil companies, sale of weapons, conflicts/war, space travel or foreign aid to governments with human right abuses? Surly there’s no benefit I’d ever see from these expenditures.

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