With natural gas prices at record highs in Europe, Norway is raking it in. The country is Europe’s second-largest gas supplier after Russia—and has just agreed to increase natural gas exports by 2 billion cubic meters to alleviate the continent’s acute energy shortage. Its neighbors, such as Britain, are grateful for every dollop of gas as winter approaches.
Yet even as wealthy Norwegians count their kroners thanks to rising prices and booming exports, their government is working hard to stop some of the world’s poorest countries from producing their own natural gas. Along with seven other Nordic and Baltic countries, Norway has been lobbying the World Bank to stop all financing of natural gas projects in Africa and elsewhere as soon as 2025—and until then only in “exceptional circumstances,” as an unpublished statement by the group, seen by Foreign Policy, details. At COP26, 20 countries went even further, pledging to stop all funding for overseas fossil fuel projects beginning next year. Instead, the Nordic and Baltic countries suggest, the World Bank should finance clean energy solutions in the developing world “such as green hydrogen and smart micro-grid networks.”
The idea that some of the poorest people on Earth will be using green hydrogen—possibly the most complex and expensive energy technology that exists—and building out “smart micro-grid networks” in just a few years at anywhere near the scale required is absurd. Not even solar energy or wind power—if it could be built out quickly enough—could fuel development in the global south without backup power using fossil fuels, of which gas is the cleanest by far. In sub-Saharan Africa, which has large gas fields offshore and includes many of the world’s poorest countries, a ban on financing gas projects would practically end support for the critical energy infrastructure necessary to support economic development and raise living standards—including electricity for homes, schools, and factories; industrial heat for producing cement and steel; the carbon dioxide that is an essential component of synthetic fertilizer; and liquefied gas for transportation and cooking fuel.
That last example makes perfectly clear what Norway’s fight against natural gas means for the world’s poor.
Read the full piece on Foreign Policy.