Oil drilling in the Arctic

Norway is the leading country when it comes to technology for developing and operating oil and gas fields offshore. No wonder when you take the harsh weather conditions into account and how close we are to the Arctic.

BUT, we are also one of the biggest producer and exporter of fish. Our ocean is one of the most fertile biotope for fish. Before we found oil, our greatest asset was fish. Fish is still a major part of our export. We sell fish to 153 countries worldwide.

One of the richest area for the fisheries is the Barents Sea, but it is also the most vulnerable biotope. It is way up North, in the Arctic.

So, what do we do? We drill for oil and gas in an area with the harshest climate imaginable and with one of the most important source for fishing.

What is this government thinking ? Statoil, the biggest oil/gas company in Norway, has found several very promising oil/gas fields much further south, so we have more than enough produce. AND, we are probably the richest country in the world. The so called oil fund is approaching 4000 billion NOK, and we are around 4.500 people in this country. You do the math……………

So, WHY are we taking the risk of destroying huge parts of the Arctic, including our own fisheries, by developing oil/gas fields in the Barents Sea? ONE large oil spill will be an utter disaster in that area, and because it is so far north, it may take 30, 40 or maybe 60 years to reestablish the biotope to normality. As a fisherman said some years ago: “We can eat fish but not oil”. Simple but true. We must not forget that pumping oil/gas will come to an end one day, but we will always have the fish, and we will be dependent on that simple fact. So, why destroy the most sustainable source of income for our country?

The responsibility for this destructive policy lies wholly in our government. The government consist of three parties: The biggest, the Social Democrats (Arbeiderpartiet), and two very small parties; the Socialist Party (SV) and Senterpartiet, earlier called The Farmers Party. Both SV and Senterpartiet are very conscious and focused on the environment. It was therefore quite a shock when the minister for Petroleum and Energy, Ola Borten Moe from Senterpartiet (!!) stated that we (Norway), will drill for oil and gas up to the North Pole.

What one minister say may not be that important. My main concern is the policy of this government. Drilling after oil and gas in the Arctic is utter madness.





Why F-35?

Why should Norway buy the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II? — We have enough money, but three factors speak against this deal. We do not know when the planes can be delivered, they still have technical issues to solve and, of all things, nobody has any idea about what the cost will be.

In addition we have the fact that in this country we cannot just buy a plane. It has to be custom made for our topography and weather. The F-16s we have are nowhere near what, for example, the US version of them is.

Then there are the promises of all the contracts the Norwegian industry will get. Yes, we are supposed to manufacture the missiles for the F-35 (Norwegian Naval Strike Missile), but it will only create around 400 jobs.

I am old enough to remember when we bought the F-16s. Same story – the promised contracts for the Norwegian high tech industry never materialized.

So, why are we so naive and loyal to the US? Yes, we are one of America’s oldest and most loyal allies, but this transaction seems quite unwise. The number of unknown variables is just too many.

I do not have the answer. I do not understand my own Government. There has of course been a heated debate in Norway about this issue, and this year the government is supposed to make the final decision. For an extensive overview of events: Norway and the F-35

There are several alternatives that are fully developed and operational, and they are much more inexpensive both to buy, but not the least, to operate. Two that I can mention are the Eurofighter and the Jas Gripen.

Several of the original group of countries that helped with the funding of this project (Britain, Australia, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy and the Netherlands), have sent strong signals that they may cancel or at least reduce the order. An example is Japan (Japan cancelling order?) and Canada, US and Australia (Cancelling order?)

I could go on and write about the F-22 and it’s demise and the Russians developing their Sukhoi PAK FA and the Chinese with their Chengdu J-20 or Snow Owl Jet.

But that is not my point. I am just wondering why so many countries are willing to spend so much money on this very shaky project called F-35.

The Norwegian Government and our money: The oil fund

Before we, the Norwegians, found oil in the Norwegian sea and the North sea, we were one of the poorest countries in Europe.

That changed fairly quickly. We were quite clever, so 85 % of the profit remains in the coffers of the Norwegian state; as direct money earned through ownership in the oil and gas companies or through the tax system.

So, what do we do with all this money?

We put it in a fund ( the “oil fund”) so that we can care for the elderly that is a growing group in Norway. What an empathic and noble reasoning. BUT, is it necessary?? Let’s do the math. We are only just above 5 million people and we are actually growing fast. But, the oil fund is growing faster.

The government has a rule, called “handlingsregel”, which means “rule for action”. It states that the Norwegian state cannot use more than 4 % of the oil fund every year.

BUT, as the oil fund is growing (passing 3.500 billion NOK despite the crisis in the world economy),

I will spell it so there is no misunderstanding: The oil fund is now three thousand five hundred billion NOK.

Norway has a number of serious challenges that the state do very little about. The key word is the economy of the Communes (Municipal areas). The state has more than enough money, but the Communes are almost all struggling. The main reason is that the state is giving them more responsibilities, but to not follow up with the necessary funds. This, of course is a simplification of the situation, but is at the hart of the matter.

So, Norway, one of the richest countries in the world, has a long and difficult backlog when it comes to maintenance of public buildings (most important schools), caring for the elderly sick that cannot care for themselves, the road system, public transport, innovation, land based industry (in a long term perspective), the quality of our school system…………..the list is long.

Don’t misunderstand me. We are quite well off and I do understand that we cannot overuse money, but we are on the positive side when it comes to the state’s budget and foreign trade, and substantially so.

We have MORE than enough money, and we are underusing them. — An example. Last year, 2011, the states budget showed that we had an added profit of 29 billion NOK. Money that was not in the government’s calculations. So, what do we do? We put them in the oil fund.

Why don’t we use this money to fix our schools, take care of those who need it, upgrade our road system, expand and streamline public transport and all the other major tasks that has been neglected for so long.