OSLO A proposal to ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars in Norway from 2015 could help spur struggling carmakers to shift to greener models, Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen said Saturday.
"This is much more realistic than people think when they first hear about this proposal," she told Reuters, defending a plan by her Socialist Left Party to outlaw sales of cars that run solely on fossil fuels in six years' time.
"The financial crisis also means that a lot of those car producers that now have big problems ... know that they have to develop their technology because we also have to solve the climate crisis when this financial crisis is over," she said.
"That is why we would like a ban from 2015," she said, during an exhibition in Oslo of electric and biofuel-powered cars during which she raced a red and white Mitsubishi electric car around a course against several other politicians.
She finished among the slower times.
Under her proposal, carmakers could only sell new cars from 2015 that run fully or partly on fuels such as electricity, biofuels or hydrogen. Hybrids using fossil fuels and electricity, for instance, would still be permitted.
Halvorsen's party is a junior member of Norway's three-party coalition led by the Labor Party. The 2015 proposal is unlikely to be adopted by the cabinet because it is opposed, among others, by Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Still, Halvorsen said she knew of no other finance minister in the world who was even arguing for such a goal.
"I haven't heard about any ministers. I'm not surprised. We are often a party that puts forward new proposals first," she said. A 2015 ban had backing from many environmental groups around the world as a way of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Halvorsen denied that her proposal would undermine the economy -- Norway is the world's number six oil exporter.
"Not at all ... we know that the world will be dependent on oil and gas for many decades ahead but we have to introduce new technologies and this is a proposal to support that," she said.
Asked what she would say if she met the head of a big car producer such as General Motors, she said: "develop new and more environmentally friendly cars. And I know they are working on that question."
She said many people in Norway had initially misunderstood her proposal.
"A lot of people are very fond of their cars, it's like a member of the family," she said. "A lot of people thought that this proposal also would go after the cars we already have. That is not the case, it's the new cars that are bought after 2015."
-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/
(Editing by Richard Balmforth)