Income from oil important for rise in living standards and emissions

A great part of industry and the business sector is based on the utilisation of natural resources. Oil and gas production has grown substantially since the 1970s. Today, Norway is the seventh largest exporter of oil and the second largest exporter of gas.

Income from oil and gas has resulted in a considerable increase in living standards over the last 30-40 years, and is the main reason Norway is in an advantageous financial position. However, oil and gas production is also the most important source of Norwegian carbon dioxide emissions since 1990.

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High energy consumption in Norway

Electricity, oil and gas are the main energy carriers in Norway. Oil is  primarily used for transport purposes, while gas is mainly used offshore and in the manufacturing industry. Energy consumption in Norway is relatively high, partly because of our cold climate, energy-intensive industry and extensive transport needs.

We have seen an increase in energy consumption in the last decades. This increase is closely connected to financial growth. Many people buy larger homes that demand more energy for heating, and larger cars that demand more petrol, perhaps even a second car. The increase in production and transport of building materials for the construction of businesses and offices also contributes to the rise in energy consumption. Moreover, it seems these new buildings are more energy intensive than the old ones, partly as a result of the use of large glass facades.

The energy-related CO2 emissions have not risen in line with economic growth. This is because a large part of the energy consumption is covered by hydroelectric power. Cheap hydroelectric power has resulted in high electricity consumption, and a weak motivation to limit or reduce use. Today Norway is the country in the world with the highest per capita electricity consumption. 

Norway is becoming more and more integrated in the European electricity grid. This increases the exchange of energy between Norway and other European countries. Our increased consumption will most likely lead to an increase in CO2 emissions in the countries we import power from, depending on which countries we import from, whether those countries import power from other coutries and at what time of the day power is imported.

With the introduction of the new Norwegian gas power plants a part of the energy produced in Norway also comes from fossil fuels. Once carbon capture and storage systems are introduced for these power plants, the emissions will be reduced by 80-90 per cent. But there will still be a release of residue CO2 emissions.

Growth in transport by road and air

The spending power of the population has grown stronger. While the majority of the world population does not have the opportunity to have a car, many Norwegian families have two. We travel more frequently, we travel further and  we are less people in the car. The reduction in average CO2 emissions per km for is thus "eaten up" by our changing travel habits.

According to Statistics Norway, the growth in private car use is partly tied in with the increased demand in comfort and material standards, but also the progression of a societal structure that demands great mobility. The use of  private cars has increased more than fivefold since 1965. 

Number of passenger kilometres per day

Journeys by public transport only accounted for a little more than ten per cent of the population’s travels in 2009.We also fly more frequently and further, especially abroad. Emissions from journeys abroad are not included in the Norwegian emission inventory.

The Norwegian economy is raw material and export oriented. This results in extensive transportation of goods. According to Statistics Norway, the total volume of transported goods has more than doubled since 1965, while the transport performance measured in goods kilometres has increased sixfold.

Demand for fast transport and door-to-door delivery of goods is also increasing.

All of the above trends result in an increasing part of transport conducted in private cars, planes and trucks, and this leads to a rise in CO2 emissions.

Indirect emissions linked to imported products

Norway imports increasing amounts of consumer products such as cars, electric and electronic devices, furniture, clothes and food. The production and transport of these products leads to considerable greenhouse gas emissions. Increased consumption of such products in Norway therefore leads to increased global emissions. Since the emissions are not released in Norway, but in other countries such as China, they are not included in the Norwegian emission inventory.

At the same time there is a balance; Norway includes emissions from the production of goods we export in the emission inventory. These include emissions from the extraction of oil and gas and emissions from the production of aluminum.