In what seemed like an episode of the Norwegian television drama Occupied, Norway’s largest political party joined smaller ones in the nation’s parliament to prevent oil exploration in the scenic Lofoten archipelago. The Labor Party’s environmental wing made climate change and scenic beauty big issues.
Unlike another contentious oil resource, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, these islands get around 1 million visitors each year. That implies that many Norwegians have actually seen the islands.
In the history of oil-rich nations, Norwegians have followed an unorthodox path. While most such nations have chosen to subsidize domestic prices of petroleum products or at least keep them cheap by policy, Norway has taxed consumption of oil and oil products as if the country were an importer trying to economize on petroleum use.
A recent Bloomberg survey showed that the average price of a gallon of gas worldwide was $3.48. The range was 1 cent in Venezuela to $7.61 in Hong Kong. Norway ranked second highest at $6.89.
Even more strange is that Norway has become a leading market for all-electric cars. About one-third of all new cars sold in the country last year were all-electric. Of course, Norway has very large hydroelectric resources, resources which produced 93.6 percent of the country’s electricity in February 2019, the most recent month for which data is available. But these copious hydropower resources have long been available and didn’t prevent the country from becoming dependent on petroleum-fueled transportation just like the rest of the world.
Norway also made a fateful and propitious decision shortly after the discovery of its oil and natural gas riches in the North Sea. The country decided to invest much of the tax revenue derived from oil and gas in a sovereign wealth fund to be managed on behalf of the Norwegian people for use by future generations.
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