Don’t drill, baby, don’t drill
M. Michael Brady
When Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg was interviewed by Dagens Næringsliv (the Norwegian business newspaper) at this year’s Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) international oil and gas industries fair in Stavanger, she came out in support of opening up the seas of the high north off the coast of the Lofoten and Vesterålen archipelagos to extraction of the large undersea oil reserves of unknown extent. She said that the activities generated would create jobs that would hinder the ongoing depopulation of the region.
Her remarks may have appealed to oil industry professionals agonizing about a decline in industry activity in Norway driven by declining oil prices. But as pointed out soon thereafter by author and journalist Simen Tveitreid in A-magasinet, her views were not based on fact. Her ministers seemed oblivious of the consensus of climate researchers stated in the caveat that “If we are to keep global warming below two degrees, two thirds of all known fossil reserves must remain in the ground.” That caveat has been widely quoted, even in Stavanger, where Kristin Halvorsen, Director of the University of Oslo’s Cicero Center for Climate Research, had mentioned it in an international conference speech that called for the bright minds of the oil and gas industries to turn to other problems than how we can get our hands on the last drop of oil.
Figures support that view. According to Norway Statistics, from 2010 to 2016 the overall population of the Lofoten and Vesterålen archipelagos and the island of Senja has not thinned out but actually increased. Likewise, the number of jobs went up, particularly in fisheries, in step with 2014 being the best year ever for Norwegian codfish exports, a record bettered by 8% the following year, in 2015. And the growth in tourism was explosive, as the Lofoten Islands drew visitors to Northern Lights viewing and adventure skiing.
The greater share of the gains built on cod coming to the Norwegian Sea to spawn, a natural phenomenon of untold centuries, most intense from late winter to spring in the stretch of sea off the coast of the Lofoten archipelago, northward from its smallest, southernmost island of Røst (pictured). Cod fishing has sustained the people of the high north since the Viking Age, making cod Norway’s oldest export. Offshore oil activities off the coast of the Lofoten archipelago threaten it, as set forth in a position statement in 2004 by the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.
In 2010, three ministries jointly initiated a comprehensive knowledge gathering project to assess the value creation of expanding commercial activities, principally fishery-related enterprises and tourism, in the three northernmost counties of Nordland, Troms, and Finnmark. The most cautious of two financial prognoses indicate that fisheries and aquaculture will double the value of their activities from 2010 to 2030, which in turn will create a problem of not being able to attract enough workers to fill the new jobs. The initial stages of these gains have already been seen, without local oil activities.
• “Nå lover hun oljeindustrien nye utbyggingsområder” (Now she promises the oil industry new development areas), interview of Prime Minister Erna Solberg by Morten Ånestad and Einar Melberg, Dagens Næringsliv, August 29, 2016, link: www.dn.no/nyheter/politikkSamfunn/2016/08/28/2048/Olje/n-lover-hun-oljeindustrien-nye-utbyggingsomrder (in Norwegian only)
• “Der det er fisk, kan det bo folk” (Where there are fish, people can live) by Simen Tveitereid, A-Magasinet, September 16, 2016, link: www.aftenposten.no/amagasinet/Der-det-er-fisk_-kan-det-bo-folk-603800b.html (in Norwegian only)
• “Climate policy for the oil dependent,” Cicero Research Center transcript of speech by Cicero Director Kristen Halvorsen, link: www.cicero.uio.no/en/posts/news/climate-policy-for-the-oil-dependent
• Norway Statistics (SSB), website at www.ssb.no
• “2015 a new record year for Norwegian codfish exports,” Norwegian Seafood Council press release, January 5, 2016, link: en.seafood.no/News-and-media/News-archive/Press-releases/2015-a-new-record-year-for-Norwegian-codfish-exports
• “Hvorfor ‘nei’ til oljevirksomhet utenfor Lofoten” (Why “no” to offshore oil activities off the Lofoten coast), statement, January 2, 2004, Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, link: www.imr.no/nyhetsarkiv/2003/december/hvorfor_nei_til_oljevirksomhet_utenfor_lofoten/nb-no, (in Norwegian only)
• “Framtid i nord” (Future North), Final report of the “Knowledge Gathering—Value Creation in the North” project, published April 2014, Norwegian link: www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/9411c30c9698481692151be1b063b807/rapport_framtid_i_nord_nett.pdf, English link: www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/8aa6fc353593499ea9e1a343fcb19600/final-report_future-north.pdf
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.