3.0 Literature Review
The following chapter presents the literature of this dissertation and the background of the study.
3.1 Norwegian Arctic oil history
‘Den nye nordområdepolitikken’ (‘The New North Area Policy’) (2008) by Geir Hønneland and Leif Christian Jensen discuss how there has been a shift in Norwegian policymaking regarding the High North. The shift started when Jonas Gahr Støre became the new foreign minister in 2005. The new topics on the agenda for the High North were now distribution of resources and security politics – topics that had not been discussed since The Cold War. Oil drilling in the High North had hardly been mentioned before this, and the divide between Norwegian and Russian fishing quotas had found its common middle ground in the 1970s. The book draws its main focus to the NOU’s (Norges offentlige utredninger) (Official Norwegian Reports) regarding the Northern areas of Norway after 2003 when the new development started. This includes the documents:
- ‘Mot nord!’ (‘Towards North!’) (2003)
- ‘Muligheter og utfordringer i nord’ (‘Possibilities and challenges in the North’) (2005)
- ‘Barents 2020’ (2006)
- ‘Regjeringens nordområdestrategi’ (‘The governments North area strategy’) (2006)
‘Regjeringens nordområdestrategi’ (‘The government’s North area strategy’) dedicates chapters to indigenous questions, environmental considerations and petroleum. Furthermore there are discussions around the process of the opening of the first petroleum activity in the Barents Sea on the ‘Snøhvit’-project. When it was suggested that there should be petroleum free zones within this area, the ministry for oil and energy was concerned this might cause unnecessary conflict focus, and the worry was that if these areas first were protected, then this could be the first step to more petroleum free zones in the Barents Sea. With this approach to petroleum exploration, that protected areas are sometimes necessary to preserve the ecosystem, the sitting government (Bondevik 2) showed respect towards the Rio-conference in 1992 on biological diversity. At the Johannesburg-conference ten years later it was encouraged that this way of approaching marine resources was recommended. The state report from the same government in the spring of 2002 ‘Rent og rikt hav’ (‘Clean and rich ocean’) states that Norway wants to count on holistic management plans for all the Norwegian sea areas, and with an expressive wish to start with the Barents Sea. This was justified because there is still a relatively small amount of human interference in this area, and it is also one of the richest areas for fish, sea birds and sea mammals in the world. The main aspects of the ecosystem has been researched, but there is still a low level of agreed knowledge on how pollution affects the species and the ecosystem. The report also states how the low temperatures and drifting ice give the oil and chemicals released in the water a long degradation. This combined with the occasionally high waves that can occur during the dark season gives an overall image of oil spill reduction being severely limited. Combined with the poorer infrastructure of North-Troms and Finnmark compared to the rest of the country this contributes even further in weakening level of preparedness for a potential oil spill.
The State Report ‘Helhetlig forvaltning av det marine miljø i Barentshavet og havområdene utenfor Lofoten’ (2005-2006) (‘Wholesome management of the marine environment in the Barents Sea and the sea areas around Lofoten’) explains how the Barents Sea is a shallow ocean with an average depth of 230 meters, and the most shallow areas are located in the South-East. Even thought the Barents Sea surface areas only measure 7% of the Arctic Ocean areas, the main bulk of the Arctic marine resources is located in this area. This is caused due to the fact that a considerable amount of the North-East-Atlantic fish resources live parts or their entire life cycle in the Barents Sea.
The book looks backwards and reviews the 1990s as a decade where the oil industries interest for the Arctic ocean areas were low, even thought they in the 1980s had experienced a promising optimism surrounding these areas. However, ten years later the search did not show results, and in 2007 geologist Jan Inger Faleide expressed to the independent research website forskning.no how the Barents Sea was raised and lowered during the past ice ages, and how this caused the thickness of several kilometers of sediments to be scraped off. This gave the gas the room to expand and how this caused the reaction where the oil was outright pumped out of the reservoirs. Further, he points out that among the geologists it is said that the industry should have drilled for oil in these areas ten million years ago (this is however only one theory, which not all experts agree upon).
To sum up, the book discusses the three discourses that have been dominant in Norway: The ‘protective’ discourse, the ‘energy appetite and new alliances’ discourse and the ‘drilling for the environment’ discourse. The ‘protective’ discourse states that petroleum activity in the Barents Sea will threaten the fragile Arctic environment and the renewable sea resources, and therefore demands that Norway refrains from it. An article from the financial newspaper Dagens Næringsliv on the 10th of April 2000 explains: The sea areas where it is currently being discussed to open up for large-scale oil delivery is in a fishing context among the most valuable in the world. The Barents Sea, with large populations of cod, shrimp, herring and capelin, is the ecological foundation that enables Norway to produce seafood for over 30 billions NOK annually. That this sea area has a documentable clean environment is the most important condition to why fishers, breeders and biotechnologist pictures a multiplication of todays value in the next 20-30 years. The fear is however that if 100.000 tons of crude oil is transported through the Barents Sea and along the Norwegian coast, it is only a question of time before a ship wreck or another serious accident with enormous oil spills will be the result. The ‘energy appetite and new alliances’ discourse refers to Norway’s relationship to Russia, and how Russia has already gotten a pre-start, and how Norway must not appear small and backwards-looking towards the wider world community. This discourse appeals to the fear that Norway will be a ‘pigeon among cranes’ and will end up in a ‘geopolitical cross road’ if Norway does not also ‘compete’ in the ‘race against the North’, that has already started. There is also the factor that the world will need more energy, and it is Norway’s obligation to provide this. The third discourse, ‘drilling for the environment’, draws on the previous prerequisite that the Russians have already started, but their equipment is old and outdated, whereas if Norway were to do the oil drilling, it would at least be done with the newest within the technology, and therefore it is Norway’s duty to lead the way to set the right environmental standard within oil drilling in the Barents Sea.