Norway Oil and Energy Minister’s black period / Columns / The Foreigner

Norway Oil and Energy Minister’s black period. Coal should be dead, but Norway says “Long live coal!” The world does not need more coal. Energy efforts should target reducing demand and providing sustainable supplies instead,. So why is the country’s government thinking of opening a new coal mine in the high Arctic on Svalbard? The Svalbard archipelago is a unique environment. It is also the most accessible tourist location in the high Arctic. People can come from around the world to appreciate the poetry, fragility, and fascination of life at extremes. Hopefully, they depart with more will to preserve it--not to open another mine. Svalbard has long been engrained in the Norwegian consciousness. Those mystical isles in the north, a Norwegian outpost, but with an unusual geopolitical status permitting other countries to have certain resource rights. As a bastion of a comparatively 'untouched' environment, Svalbard has long aroused Norwegian passions to fight against over excessive human impact on the land and marine environments there.

svalbardcoalmine, norwayoilandenergyminister, olabortenmoe



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Norway Oil and Energy Minister’s black period

Published on Thursday, 6th October, 2011 at 13:51 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

Coal should be dead, but Norway says “Long live coal!” The world does not need more coal. Energy efforts should target reducing demand and providing sustainable supplies instead,. So why is the country’s government thinking of opening a new coal mine in the high Arctic on Svalbard?

Svalbard coalmine
Svalbard coalmine
Photo: ©2011 Ilan Kelman/The Foreigner


The Svalbard archipelago is a unique environment. It is also the most accessible tourist location in the high Arctic. People can come from around the world to appreciate the poetry, fragility, and fascination of life at extremes. Hopefully, they depart with more will to preserve it--not to open another mine.

Svalbard has long been engrained in the Norwegian consciousness. Those mystical isles in the north, a Norwegian outpost, but with an unusual geopolitical status permitting other countries to have certain resource rights. As a bastion of a comparatively 'untouched' environment, Svalbard has long aroused Norwegian passions to fight against over excessive human impact on the land and marine environments there.

Yet suddenly, the decision makers in Oslo wish to extract natural resources. Does Norway need the money, and will that contribute to international development and sustainability?

Coal mining has made enormous strides from the filthy, lethal occupation of decades ago, but 'clean coal' remains more of an ambiguity than a reality.

Svalbard's governor has rightly called for stringent environmental requirements for any new mine. That cannot be enough, despite the best of intentions, as the mining process inevitably disrupts the highly sensitive Arctic ecology.

The island’s environment already struggles enough. Tourists are becoming bolder at going off trail and trying to take home 'souvenirs' from the landscape or historical sites. Larger and larger cruise ships are impacting wildlife. Climate change contributes to the mix.

Wouldn’t it be better to invest that money into making Svalbard as energy independent as feasible rather than adding a mine,? The Cool 100 Arctic energy project provides ideas. Rather than Norway promoting more fossil fuels, so why not set an example by leaving coal in the ground?

The world does need more sustainable energy. Coal is not part of that equation.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).



Published on Thursday, 6th October, 2011 at 13:51 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: svalbardcoalmine, norwayoilandenergyminister, olabortenmoe.





  
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