Oil sand project vote gets politicians and environmentalists talking, whilst Statoil does the walking.
Yesterday’s Statoil shareholders’ vote in favour of the company’s Canadian oil sand project in Alberta has once again prompted the environmentally-friendly Socialist Left Party (SV) to protest about the government’s climate policy.
CEO Helge Lund said Statoil hasn’t even begun recovering oil sand, but the company is developing a pilot project. They plan to produce 10,000 barrels of oil per day, about 0.5 percent of the company’s production.
He also said the company wants to contribute towards extracting oil sand in the most environmentally-friendly way and follow local rules, reports NRK.
“I don’t even believe Statoil itself believes what Statoil says when they call it an environmental project, and that’s why both I and SV think they should sell out,” says Snorre Valen, the Socialist Left’s (SV) energy and environmental policy spokesman.
The shareholders’ meeting in Stavanger Forum didn’t pass without incident. There were protests by environmental organisations, who also received support from Storebrand Asset Management, reports Aftenposten.
“Society depends upon sustainable development. Oil sand isn’t,” said Christine Tørklep Meisingset, head of socially responsible investments at the company.
According to NRK, the Indian Chief Francois Paulette of the Dene Nation indigenous people, who live near the controversial oil sand recovery areas, also spoke his mind.
“You’re ruining the river. People living near the oil sands get cancer without knowing. There’s something seriously wrong. The environment is slowly dying. You have to know this,” he said, adding health authorities have asked the population nearby not to eat fish or moose.
Stakeholders Greenpeace and the WWF also proposed Statoil pulls out its operations.
There have also been appeals by James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, for prime ministerial intervention. He’s written to Labour’s (Ap) Jens Stoltenberg, asking him to try and get Statoil to pull out of the project.
“I’m disappointed to learn that Statoil, Norway’s state-owned oil company, has taken such backward strides through its strategic decision to invest in Canada’s destructive tar sands industry. In your capacity as owner of more than two-thirds of the shares in Statoil, I urge you to end Norway’s involvement in this dangerous, dirty, and destructive project,” he writes in the letter published in Aftenposten.
In an interview with The Canadian Press Hansen said he hoped that as a small country, Norway could lead by example, and try to get people to understand what the situation is.
Although Statoil has said it eventually wants to achieve a 40 percent emission reduction level, according to Aftenposten, the company is still looking for a solution.
The process requires large amounts of energy and releases high amounts of environmentally-hostile CO2.
Hansen tells The Canadian Press he believes this could be catastrophic, and predicts full development of the world’s conventional hydrocarbon reserves alone would result in dangerous levels of greenhouse gases.
“If you add the unconventional fossil fuels, you just blow the top off. You guarantee that we will pass through major tipping points,” he says.
Business as usual?
But the Prime Minister tells Aftenposten the government follows the usual rules of play when it comes to Statoil, even though it has a 67 percent stake in the company.
“My job isn’t to control Statoil, but work towards reducing climate emissions,” he told Aftenposten.
This is something he hasn’t followed up on for now. The two thorny issues of carbon capture and storage at the Mongstad gas power plant, and not giving motorists tax breaks on environmentally-friendly biodiesel are just two examples.
Snorre Valen, who’s Party is part of the red-green governmental coalition, doesn’t buy the shareholders’ 98.62 percent vote in favour of the oil sand project.
“If everyone recovered the world’s resources at any time, we can forget reaching our climate targets. History will show that Statoil is wrong, and we are right,” he says.
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