Norway government “must stop Statoil oil sands”

Ex senior Statoil and UN personnel strongly advocate political intervention to make Statoil cease oil sands recovery in favour of environmentally friendly solutions.

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Inge Johansen og Svein Tveitdal mener Statoil bør trekke seg ut av Canada og oljesand. Dette bildet viser demonstranter utenfor generalforsamlingen til Statoil i 2010. Foto: Pål Christensen

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According to former Statoil board chairperson Inge Johansen, and Svein Tveitdal, previous UN director, Norway should commit to renewable and sustainable measures if it wishes to supply the world’s poor with energy.

Inescapable

In their commentary in today’s Stavanger Aftenblad, they write, “The government pretends there are no contradictions between rapid recovery of all known Norwegian oil and gas resources and a sustainable climate policy. It’s just like Winnie the Pooh’s ‘Both please’ expression.”

Both commentators think Norway should lead the way by limiting fossil-based energy extraction and use. Directing particular criticism towards Statoil’s Canadian oil sands undertaking, they advocate majority owner the Norwegian government order the company wind up its project.

Inge Johansen tells the paper, “We’re suggesting this because the process of producing oil from oil sands is very energy-intensive, resulting in major amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. I am aware that Statoil is doing this in the best possible way so as not to destroy the landscape. Nevertheless, the company cannot bypass the fact that climate emissions are several times larger than those from normal oil production.”

He thinks the EU’s current evaluation of whether to place economic restrictions on this type of oil should be a wakeup call for the Norwegian government.

Dilemma

Statoil is a stock exchange-listed company engaged in business. How can you defend the state taking such an active role?

Mr Johansen believes his former company’s engagement in this type of extraction, together with stringent ethical and investment guidelines, pose a dilemma.

Encouraging the government not to wait until this arises, he states, “The government can impose limits on Statoil’s activity, both if done in a leisurely way and through discussions in with the company. This is to do with ethics and the environment.”

“The Government Pension Fund Global’s (GPFG) Council on Ethics should ensure it doesn’t invest in companies which commit serious environmental damage, which Statoil shouldn’t be doing either.”

Contradictory

Inge Johansen and Svein Tveitdal are provoked by the fact that Statoil CEO Helge Lund claims the oil sands project is consistent with the two-degree pre-industrial level global warming rise target, set at the COP15 Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009. Such a task will be extremely demanding as long as global CO2 emissions continue to increase, and whilst the major emissions nations still refuse to commit to cuts before 2020. “The government uses the environmental argument to speed up Norwegian gas exports, which is not particularly credible when the state simultaneously supports the production of oil from oil sands through Statoil,” they write.

Benefactor?

What is your comment to Statoil and Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe saying the Norwegian oil extraction is about providing energy to the World’s poor?

“It’s true that the poor need access to energy to get out of poverty, but not that Norway has a role in supplying oil to that part of the world. We should provide the poor sustainable energy that releases small amounts of greenhouse gases if Norway is to have some kind of missionary role. We should also promote renewable energy, and here I’m thinking particularly in relation to Norway’s hydropower competence,” concludes Mr Johansen.

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