Norway has staked its claim as a fossil fuel divestment champion, calling for other countries to keep their fuel sources in the ground, but the country’s oil industry is planning on increasing production.
“We know that if we burn all the coal, oil and gas available, the Paris agreement cannot be fulfilled. Significant parts of the total fossil resources must remain, untouched,” Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen, director of the Norwegian oil and gas association and a former minister of finance, told reporters Friday.
Yet the plan to increase more fossil fuel development is couched under the guise of helping Europe abide by the provisions laid out during last year’s Paris climate agreement.
Schjøtt-Pedersen said that exploiting Norway’s oil and gas would be better for the climate since they can do it more efficiently and cleaner than other countries.
“If Europe were to replace coal with Norwegian natural gas, this would result in a 50% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions for every unit of energy produced. We produce gas with low emissions, which can replace coal with high emissions,” he said at a meeting in Tromsø, Norway.
Norway’s oil producers are pushing for more development at a time when crude prices currently are at $32.30 a barrel, resulting in a glut in the oil market.
The country issued 56 new licenses to allow companies to pump gas near the Lofoten islands.
“The oil and gas industry has been through major slumps before, but has kept growing. Although bad for Norway, low oil prices stimulate the global economy and the demand for oil,” Erna Solberg, the country’s prime minister, told attendees at the meeting, adding that oil’s current low prices will help stoke a demand for Norway’s crude.
From a business and economic perspective, there is no other choice, she said. Norway must produce more oil.
“Norway’s oceans cover a vast area. The seabed contains large resources of oil and gas. Our oceans provide vast opportunities for harvesting their bounty. Therefore, it is vital that we make every effort to ensure that the oceans are clean and productive,” she added.
Environmentalists, as expected, are not reacting favorably to the government’s decision, telling reporters that Norway is acting hypocritically by championing the Paris agreement all the while proposing to increase its oil production.
“They say our oil is cleaner and that the EU needs us. Meanwhile it is lobbying in Europe against stronger energy efficiency laws. There seem to be no limits on the Norwegian oil industry. They want to keep on expanding,” Silje Lundberg, an activist with Friends of the Earth Norway, said to reporters this week.
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