An ever-increasing focus on the environment is weakening the reputation of the oil and gas industry. IKM and politicians believe the debate is important, but sometimes essential facts do not emerge.

– Some believe we should cut off all oil and gas production on the Norwegian continental shelf immediately, but that will be wrong. We must be fact-based. To close the cranes today will contribute to increased emissions if we are thinking globally, says Øystein Stjern, Executive Vice President of IKM.

Want a fact-based discussion

He gets support from State Secretary Rikard Gaarder Knutsen (FrP) of the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. He too believes that cutting all production will help increase emissions. He refers to how the industry contributes with heavy technology and high technological expertise to reach climate goals.

State Secretary Rikard Gaarder Knutsen. Photo: OED – Thomas Brun/NTBScanpix

– The industry is helping in the transition towards the green shift, but it requires a great deal of work to get more people to understand it. If we end the production in Norway, other countries with higher emissions will take over. We are dependent on the Norwegian oil and gas industry, says the State Secretary.

Stjern does not doubt that the climate crisis is real, but misses an arena where the industry can have a fact-based discussion with environmentalists. He says the industry has taken several steps in recent years to reduce emissions. The challenge is that the criticism mainly comes because Norway produces oil and gas. Not because they are doing anything wrong. All the good actions that the industry is taking will therefore not satisfy those who do not want the oil to be pumped up anyway. Based on that, the debate doesn’t become constructive. Gaarder Knutsen fully agrees.

– When things go against the industry, criticism comes first. You end up in a defensive position where you have to defend yourself. Then it’s not as easy to get column space to submit all the positive things we contribute with, he says and continues:

– The industry actually has a good reputation for what they are doing but is just criticized for producing oil and gas at all. Had the bad reputation been a result of high emissions, pollution, a lot of flaring and poor technology, it would have been completely different. That is not the case here, but it is a difficult discussion, the State Secretary continues.

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– Must join the debate

Gaarder Knutsen believes that all the good stories must be told to a greater extent. He emphasizes that it is no easy task, but says politicians and the industry together must tell what they are doing towards the green shift. Stjern says he misses company’s’ presence in the public debate.

– If we genuinely believe that Norwegian oil and gas is an important part of the energy mix, we must not be afraid to say that we are a part of the solution. We must dare to be present and take the debate in public forums, says Stjern.

He refers to how Norwegian gas has contributed to significantly lower emissions in the UK. However, such contributions do not get as much space as Greta Thunberg.

– She raises a real concern about what the world will look like in a few years. What she takes up is vital. Everyone agrees that we must take action now. What I feel we disagree on is the global emission reduction policy, which is, after all, the goal.

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Must look at the consumption

At the same time, he argues that even though consumption must be reduced, it is Norway’s energy production that is criticized.

– If we are to reach climate goals, we must accept to change our habits. The use-and-throw society as we know is not sustainable in the long run. If we want to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we have to ask ourselves if we need a new iPhone every other year?

He points out that the demand for oil and gas comes as a result of consumption. If people are seriously concerned about the global energy crisis, actions must be taken on the consumption side to reduce emissions, says Stjern.

– It is the demand that controls how much is produced. This is regulated by a complicated market. It is not so that Norway can opt-out of the world here. If a municipality stops selling gasoline to reduce its own emissions, the emissions will not go down as long as there is gasoline available in nearby municipalities and the demand is equal.

– I think the industry and environmental organizations must first agree on the facts and consequences of the various actions. Only then can we work together to solve the climate challenge, he concludes.

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Photo of Johan Sverdrup: Equinor