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Norway has become a key supplier of energy as Europe seeks out alternatives to Russian oil and gas.
As the Financial Times explained, the EU imported 40 percent of its gas supplies from Russia before the war in Ukraine erupted. Now that rate has dropped to 26 percent. By the end of the year, EU officials said, the bloc should be importing only 13 percent of its gas from Russia and even less oil.
Norway is already enjoying a record year in oil and gas sales, Upstream noted. Oil companies said they need long-term contracts to secure investments to expand further. Expecting more business, the Norwegian government doled out new licenses for drilling in hitherto untouched zones along the Scandinavian country’s Arctic coast in March, after it became clear that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would scramble world energy markets and prices.
“Access to new, attractive exploration acreage is a pillar in the government’s policy for further development of the petroleum industry,” Norwegian Minister of Energy and Petroleum Terje Aasland said in a statement to Reuters at the time. “New discoveries are crucial for ensuring jobs, value creation and production.”
This mother lode of black gold highlights the irony of Norway’s image as a leader in the green revolution that proponents believe is necessary to avert the most damaging effects of droughts, rising sea waters and other effects of climate change.
For example, more than 65 percent of new cars purchased in Norway last year were electric, Electrek reported. Now officials are planning to repeal tax incentives and other perks that drove those sales – not because they want to revert to carbon-fueled vehicles but because they want to reduce the number of cars on the roads overall and encourage bicycling and walking.
Additionally, Norway has invested heavily in green technologies in the oil industry itself. A largely taxpayer-funded initiative would use green hydropower generated on land to electrify offshore oil and gas rigs. “That will help meet national climate targets, and so allow the lucrative industry to keep pumping fossil fuels for decades more,” wrote Bloomberg, adding that the plan met Norway’s “own climate goals without jeopardizing their economic interests.”
Norwegians have mixed views on their oil industry. Some voices contend that Norway should use its oil riches to help the less fortunate, as Norwegian Church Aid Secretary General Dagfinn Høybråten said in an interview with Devex. Traditional communities living in northern Norway warn against energy projects – carbon or renewable – that might imperil their fishing grounds and way of life, as National Geographic documented. Reindeer that are central to indigenous Sami communities don’t mix well with wind turbines.
Speaking to Reuters, Norwegian leaders rejected allegations that they might be “greenwashing,” or only appearing to care about the environment. They were simply trying to make an orderly transition, they said.
At least it is a transition.