Norwegian government leaders and environmentalists alike are all but scoffing over some unexpected -- and unjustified -- praise doled out to them by American arch-conservative Newt Gingrich.The article goes on to cite the conflicts between the energy industry and fishing and environmental groups.
Gingrich, the former Republican leader of the US House of Representatives, recently spent six days with his wife on board one of the coastal voyage vessels known as Hurtigruten. He then concluded that Norway is a "case study" of what he calls "green conservatism."
Gingrich extolled the beauty of Norway's scenery and wildlife, while exclaiming over Norway's role as one of the world's largest oil and gas exporters. He claimed on a blog last month that Norway had "struck a remarkable balance between respect for the environment and energy independence," while becoming a "leader" in offshore drilling for oil and gas. He wrote that the US has "a lot to learn" from Norway.
Gingrich didn't mention that most all the drilling takes place far from the coast, mostly in the middle of the North Sea, and is strictly regulated if not prohibited in scenic areas or close to shore. It's also highly restricted in environmentally sensitive areas like the Barents Sea.
But the article is not entirely fair. I couldn't find the blog post the article refers to on newt.org, but I found this blog entry at Lighthouse Patriot Journal, which may be a re-post of it. Gingrich never claims that Norway's oil and gas industry operates unfettered by regulation. What he does say is this:
Norway has relatively few laws, regulations and government agencies that govern offshore drilling. Their equivalent of our Supreme Court - the Hoyesterett - reportedly declined jurisdiction over offshore drilling on the grounds that it lacks expertise!That last part I boldfaced describes the fundamental difference between Norway and the US. For the past 30 years or so, we've allowed the environmental movement to dictate our energy policy. That simply must change...now.
The result is a policy in which environmental concerns are carefully balanced with energy needs. Norwegians have put some areas off-limits to drilling. In some areas, drilling is carefully circumscribed. But the point is that drilling occurs. Environmental concerns have informed - not pre-empted-Norway’s oil and gas industry.
As a postscript, let me add that it's in Norway's interests to discredit Newt Gingrich. If we ever do get over our paralysis and boost our energy production, it will have a depressing effect on world oil prices. Given that Norway is benefiting from oil at $145 a barrel, they'd like nothing more than to see Gingrich's "Drill here, drill now, pay less" movement marginalized.