There has been an increased global push from anti-oil environmentalists for an end to oil projects in an effort to combat climate change and ensure a smooth transition to renewable energy sources. But countries like Guyana and Norway have made their positions clear – oil production will continue to meet global energy demands. In Guyana’s case, oil production will bring billions in revenues to be used to transform its economy and provide a better quality of life for its people.
In Norway, a country known for its strong environmental policies and commitment to sustainability, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the future of the oil industry. Environmentalists like Friends of the Earth Norway, WWF-Norway, and Greenpeace Norway argue that Norway, as a global leader in renewable energy, should take a definitive stance and halt oil production altogether. However, government officials maintain that while they recognise the importance of transitioning to renewables, oil production remains crucial to meeting global energy needs.
Its position is evident in its January award of 47 new oil and gas exploration licenses on the Norwegian continental shelf to 25 companies. This move is regarded as critical to Europe’s energy security as Russia continues to hit much of the continent with deep energy supply cuts as part of its ongoing war with Ukraine. Companies which received licences include ConocoPhillips, TotalEnergies, and Wintershall Dea. Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Terje Aaslan had said the new production licenses are important to maintain the production of oil and gas over time, both for Norway and Europe.
Similarly, in Guyana, a country that has recently emerged as a major player in the oil industry with significant offshore discoveries, the government sees oil production as a means to transform its economy and improve the lives of its citizens. And like Norway, it is dealing with its fair share of anti-oil activists and litigations meant to curtail oil and gas projects.
In June 2022, Guyana’s Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo issued a scathing rebuke of the anti-fossil fuel lobby. He said, “I see some celebrities who live in their countries that are expanding oil and gas production. Now, they want to stop us here in Guyana and they do not even have a voice to stop it in their own countries. In fact, they are expanding. I believe that many of them, wittingly or unwittingly, they work for the lobby in these countries. Don’t waste your time on these people. They would have us suffer forever.”
Observers say ensuring oil production is done responsibly is much more feasible than trying to stop it altogether. Norway has established a sovereign wealth fund to ensure the long-term sustainability of its oil revenues and has implemented strict regulations on emissions and environmental protection. Guyana is aimiong to invest oil revenues from its Natural Resource Fund (NRF) in renewable energy projects and develop a comprehensive strategy for a sustainable energy transition.
While environmentalists continue to advocate for an immediate end to oil projects, countries such as Guyana are looking to prioritise balancing economic growth and environmental considerations.
As the world grapples with the challenges of climate change, the question remains: will these countries be able to fulfill their commitments to build strong economies while gradually transitioning to renewable energy sources? Only time will tell if the objectives of environmentalists align with the reality of global energy demands and the economic aspirations of nations.