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In a decision that caught oil and gas industry executives by surprise, the largest governing party in Norway announced it is withdrawing its support for fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic ocean near the sensitive Lofoten Islands, thereby effectively putting them off limits for development.According to Bloomberg, State-controlled Equinor ASA, the biggest Norwegian oil producer, have said that gaining access to Lofoten is key if the country wants to maintain fuel production — experts had estimated that there are 1 billion to 3 billion barrels of oil in the waters off the Lofoten archipelago.
“The whole industry is surprised and disappointed,” said Karl Eirik Schjott-Pedersen, head of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association. “It doesn’t provide the predictability we depend on.” Oil and gas labor unions were angered by the decision.
The Norwegian government announced recently its plans to tighten restrictions on investing in coal power for its $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund and will instead opt for more investments on renewable-energy.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Trump Administration is going in the opposite direction. Politico reported yesterday that the Administration has a plan to open to oil and gas drilling the federal waters (not close to the shore) of the Eastern Gulf coast off Florida, something that is opposed by every politician, Republican and Democrat, in the state. The Trump Administration in the past had said that Florida was off the table, particularly the Eastern Gulf of Mexico because it is a significant area for the military to conduct training operations, not to mention fisheries and tourism that are drivers of the economy on Florida’s west coast. Last November, a statewide ballot measure banning oil and gas development in state waters passed by a wide margin.
Why This Matters: The Lofoten Islands are a natural wonder with a history that dates back to the Viking age. This no-drilling decision is yet another sign of the disfavor of oil and gas in the face of climate change. It is particularly noteworthy because Norway became a wealthy nation due to the development of its oil and gas reserves. According to Bloomberg, this could be just the beginning — the next battle will be regarding whether to continue to permit drilling in the Barents Sea. Drilling for oil off the US coast is also extremely unpopular — a Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters conducted in March showed 64 percent oppose the practice. Republicans, though, supported it by a 54-38 percent margin. Many Republicans in Florida worry that if Trump goes ahead with his plan to please the oil and gas industry and open up the coast to drilling, it could cost him the election.
Ten years after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, the Japanese government announced that it will release treated radioactive water from the destroyed plant into the ocean beginning in 2023. The decision to dump more than 1 million metric tons of contaminated water into the Pacific ocean has upset local fishers and surrounding countries.
Why This Matters: A decade after a 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the decision to release water into the ocean is just one part of the prolonged decommissioning of the plant.
Hundreds of citizens will fan out across the nation’s capital next week to meet with lawmakers in what’s projected to be the largest ocean lobby effort in US history. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they will meet with Biden administration officials, federal agencies, and members of Congress for a nonpartisan Ocean Climate Action Hill Day.
Why It Matters: As the Biden administration and the Congress begin to debate what’s infrastructure and therefore within the American Jobs Plan, the blue economy needs to be front and center in it.
The Evergiven is no longer stuck in the Suez Canal, but world shipping is hardly back to normal. In just six days, the massive container ship held up almost $60 billion in global trade. Supply chains across the world are delayed and off schedule, and the incident has economists and maritime experts across the globe reevaluating the efficacy of the current shipping economy.
Why this Matters: The pandemic has rocketed demand for goods (and vaccines) to all-time highs, but bottlenecks at many major ports and slow shipping speed could slow the global economy just as it begins to recover from COVID-19.
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