Energy Exports vs. the Environment in Norway

In a sense, Norway is home to one of the world’s most environmentally- conscious populations. 98-99 percent of Norway’s domestic energy comes from hydro-electric plants. According to The Economist, in 1991, Norway became one of the first countries to implement a carbon tax. Also, it was one of the first countries to capture and store carbon underground.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and his center-left coalition, have also announced that Norway will become carbon neutral by 2030, and the government has continue to actively push for a new, more stringent post-Kyoto global climate change treaty.

However, for all of its clean energy investments at home, Norway is still an enormous polluter. According to The Economist, Norway spews out more carbon emissions on a per capita basis than any other country in Europe. Also, since implementing the carbon tax in 1991, emissions have risen 15 percent. As the world’s third biggest exporter of oil, and fourth largest exporter of natural gas, it is also exporting damage to the environment on a massive scale.

Norway benefits enormously from the export of these fuels, and oil is one reason why it has one of the highest per capita incomes globally (USD 100,000 GDP per capita). Norway’s government estimates that 2008 revenue from the petroleum sector was 413 billion kroner. Its oil-revenue fund is one of the world’s biggest at 2.1 trillion kroner.

Critics argue that Norway, while doing much to become a carbon-neutral state, can really only accomplish this goal if it takes into account the carbon emissions from its energy exports. Should Norway cut back on exporting oil and natural gas, in favor of exporting cleaner hydro-electric or wind power? Before Norway can move towards full clean energy exports, does it have a responsibility to use its enormous energy trust fund to pay for the off-sets of its global energy exports? Will this ever happen?

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