Why the world’s electric car capital is struggling with oil

Why the world’s electric car capital is struggling with oil

In one of the greenest cities in the world, where electric cars are plentiful and almost all carbon emissions will be eliminated in a decade, the debate over climate change is so poisonous that police are investigating violent threats against one of its top officials.

Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, a politician from the Green Party, deputy mayor of the Norwegian capital Oslo and a strong voice for climate policy, has received hate messages, threats and racist comments on social media. The core of the nation’s economy is largely becoming a goal to highlight the contradiction.

Norway considers itself progressive and environmentally conscious, but is also the largest producer of oil and gas in Western Europe. For every population, it has more electric cars than any other country while pumping more oil than Saudi Arabia or Russia.

“We are only five million people, but we are still one of the largest oil and gas exporters in the world,” Berg said in an email. “It is very important for Norway’s climate policy to stop seeking even more oil and gas and stop new developments in the area.”

That is one of the benchmarks set by the International Energy Agency in its 2050 zero-emission global transport roadmap. Even if what the Green Party demands becomes part of a coalition government after the September elections, it would establish a political conflict. Praise the most important Norwegian industry.

The oil and gas sector employs about 200,000 people and has filled the coffers of the $ 1.4 trillion Sovereign Wealth Fund, which will promote the well-being of future generations. Forcing the decline of the industry could have a greater and more lasting impact on the lives of Norwegians than any climate policy so far, and it seems that the issue will provide the hottest moments of the election campaign.

However, one of Berga’s strongest defenses against online abuse is his main political opponent, Tina Bru, Minister of Oil and Energy. “I CAN’T NOW,” Bru posted on Facebook in May, along with screenshots of the offensive messages sent to Berger. “Shut up!” A few days later, police decided to investigate the matter.

There’s a reason the attacks hit a nerve. Bru has also suffered from in-line abuses thanks to onshore wind energy, and has highlighted how Sacred the oil industry is for Norwegian voters. The two women come from different ends of the political spectrum, but are allies in pushing for more clean energy investments – they don’t agree at all on how fast the turn should happen.

Bru is proud to talk about the achievements of Norway’s green policy, such as 100% revolving around renewable energy, the expansion of the subsidized electric car fleet, and hydrogen-powered ferries. But he makes a strong defense of his oil policies, which go directly against Berg.

“I don’t have a bad conscience for Norway to be an ambitious climate nation, at the same time we produce oil and gas,” Bruk said. His party will not follow the IEA roadmap “if we decide” that when we stop producing oil and gas on the Norwegian shelf tomorrow, other countries will say, ‘Okay, we will supply this’. “

For now, Norway’s policy is to reduce part of the carbon emissions generated by oil and gas extraction by supplying renewable electricity to the North Sea’s production facilities. On Friday, the government will publish an article on energy policy, including plans for offshore wind, hydrogen, exploration of minerals on the seabed and oil and gas.

By being a member of the European Economic Area, Norway has committed itself to a 50-55% reduction by 2030 in so-called emission-free emissions in sectors such as agriculture, waste and transport. Although it has no zero-target, the nation aims to reduce overall pollution by up to 95% by the middle of the century and claims its ability to absorb carbon from its vast forests. None of its targets take into account the oil and gas emissions that Norway sells to other countries.

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Norwegian oil company Equinor ASA aims to be clean by 2050, although the non-profit Carbon Tracker still has its climate targets lower than rivals Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and Total SE.

All major parties in Norway want the oil industry to continue exploring and developing new areas, but the process of forming the Coalition after the September elections could disrupt the status quo. According to opinion polls, he is now the leader of the Labor Party, although he will need the support of even the smallest parties to govern. This will probably include the Socialist Left Party, the Green Party or the Red Party, all of which are in favor of drilling less.

“On either side of the election, the big parties in favor of oil will have to negotiate with smaller parties that want to stop new oil activities,” said Bard Lahn, a researcher at the Cicero Center for International Climate Research in Oslo.

If his party finds itself in the position of royal author, Berg is clear that he will take full advantage of it. “The Green Party cannot accept a Prime Minister who supports a new oil exploration in Norway or new developments in oil,” this is an ultimatum. “

Negotiations to form a government have ended with a compromise following Norway’s previous elections. In 2018, the Liberal and Conservative parties reached an agreement to move the oil industry away from the Lofot Islands, which is a vulnerable area of ​​natural beauty.

This time, opponents of the oil industry may have a stronger hand, Lahn said. It is likely that they could put a much larger area outside the borders – the Arctic Barents Sea, which is believed to be home to most of Norway’s undiscovered oil and gas.

If that were to happen, it would be a bolder step than the United Kingdom of the North Sea in Norway or the Netherlands, which have zero goals but do not intend to end oil and gas exploration and production. Denmark, which produces far less oil than Norway, stopped offering new oil and gas licenses last year and promised to end production by 2050.

For Olav Fykse Tveit, the Norwegian president of the Norwegian Church who spoke at a climate conference in Paris in 2015, the fact that making greens at home does not mean that the international community will give up the hook for fossil fuel exports to Norway.

“We need to realize and acknowledge that our credibility is being questioned – that’s what I’ve experienced around the world,” Tveit said. Norway has more economic resources than most countries to tackle this problem and “we need to do something and be willing to sacrifice something”.

This article is part of Bloomberg Green’s Carbon Benchmarks series, which looks at how countries plan to transport zero emissions. Click here to receive email alerts when new stories are published.

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