We have always been told that our politicians are the most eco-conscious on this planet. The former PM, Jens Stoltenberg, even gave the impression that Norway was the locomotive that would pull the world towards a greener future. One of his big projects was to catch CO2 and store it, which would make natural gass and coal less objectionable. After spending a billion dollars on the project and constantly saying they were on schedule, one of his last decisions as PM was to close down this project after eight years.
Politicians frequently have an “out of focus-view” because the goal clearly isn’t to save some of the non-renewable energy for future generations, or the planet, but reduce emissions enough that we can safely use everything today. The Norwegian government owns over 70 percent of Statoil, and we all benefit from that, but I can’t see how the Norwegian government is going to be the driving force in getting us away from fossil fuels. I think we are going to see a lot of progress and innovation when the wells are dry, or when the politicians decide to leave some of the oil where it is. Why not start now?
The expression money talks, bullshit walks reminds me of that time when the Norwgian Minister of the Environment referred to his British colleague as a shit bag. He wasn’t exactly clean himself. There are lots of them walking around because politics is all about money. Britain abolished slavery in 1833 and the USA 32 years later. It would be nice if this was because they concluded it was wrong and evil, but it had to do with economics. The British supporters of slavery argued that slavery was too important to give up, because the economy would collapse. The steam engine had been around for a while, but when new innovations were made to existing machines, the factory owners realized they could make more money without slaves. Did that mean that the factory owners were nice people? If you read about working conditions in factories and mines during the 19th century you will quickly lose any illusion you may have had about them.
I recently read an interview with Yngve Slyngstad, CEO of Norges Bank Investmen Management, which is managing The Government Pension Fund (the oil fund). He said in this interview that they were looking forward to the next crisis in the world economy. This is the way you have to think when you buy and sell stocks because you want to buy at a low price and sell when the price is high. The oil fond spent 1000 billion NOK or about $ 125 billion on new stocks in 2009, which resulted in a return of 600 billion NOK that year. There were a lot of people losing money at the same time because only governments can spend that kind of money at the right moment. The Norwegian government doesn’t own slaves, but I’m not sure it would be correct to assume that they are better people. At the very least they are playing a part in an economic system that makes it easier to enslave people.
I frequently get irritated when I hear politicians from the parties in opposition criticizing the oil fund because they have seen some newspaper headline about the oil fund investing in unethical companies (tobacco, coal and comapnies that hire children). The Norwegian Oil Fund owns more than one percent of all the stocks in the world at the moment, and it might be hard to own that much without getting your hands dirty. The same politicians seem to happily ignore the aforementioned dynamics of making profit. To put it short, Norway thrives when others fail, and there seems to be a disturbing anticipation when there is a crisis.
This is a common attitude in the stock market, and there are probably many thinking that why shouldn’t we do it when everyone else is. If we stopped someone else would be quick to take over and get the income we could have had. That is a valid point, and I realize this strategy is going to pay my pension during bad times, or when the oil is gone, but I still find it problematic. We like to pretend that we are better than most people. The governments in Russia, China and Iran may exploit and do injustice, but we would never do that. When it comes to the environmental protection and how much this planet can tolerate, we know that we probably need at least a couple of more earths if everyone lived like we do in the West. Obviously that is impossible, so we expect the rest of the world to do what we won’t.
Many still claim that the threat of climate change is a conspiracy, or a lie. This opinion is entirely financially motivated. The truth is that we have known about the threat for a long time, so why didn’t we do anything? We have survived this long because no one can do fight or flight like humans. Being warned is another matter and we still seem to wait for the moment when we can react on impulse. That may not be possible this time.
Norway is a small country. Many think like that on a personal level as well. We are too small to accomplish anything, aren’t we? I’m ashamed to say I often think like this myself. I wish we had tough politicians, someone that could engage big business and not just join them. Obviosuly I don’t want to be without a pension, but I can’t completely ignore how the government got the money. We are accepting a lot of refugees these days, which will cost a lot. Does that mean we have to do more questionable things to finance our altruism?
One of the leading members of The Black Panther movement, Eldridge Cleaver, said that “if you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.” Imagine if the Earth could fight back. We’d be in trouble.