Europe's frantic search for an alternative to Russian energy carriers has sharply increased demand and prices for Norwegian oil and gas, AP reported.
While money is pouring in, Europe’s second-biggest natural gas supplier is fighting off accusations that it is cashing in on the war in Ukraine, the news agency notes, recalling the accusations of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who announced that Norway indirectly profits from the war.
Norway, one of the richest countries in Europe, devotes 1.09% of its national income to overseas development - one of the highest percentages in the world, including more than $200 million in aid to Ukraine. With the oil and gas coffers full, some would like even more money to be allocated to alleviate the consequences of the war, rather than subtracted from the funding of agencies that provide support to people in other countries.
Norway has drastically reduced spending on most UN institutions and support for human rights projects to fund the cost of hosting Ukrainian refugees, said Berit Lindeman, policy director for the Norwegian Helsinki Committee's human rights group.
She helped organize Wednesday's protest outside the Oslo parliament building, criticizing the government's priorities and saying the Polish remarks had some merit.
Oil and gas prices were already high amid the energy crisis, and because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, they have risen even more. Natural gas is sold three to four times more expensive than at the same time last year. International benchmark Brent crude topped $100 a barrel after the invasion three months ago and has rarely fallen below since then, the agency said.
State-controlled Norwegian energy giant Equinor earned four times as much in the first quarter as it did in the same period last year.
This largesse has forced the government to revise its forecast for oil revenues to NOK 933 billion ($97 billion) this year - more than three times what was earned in 2021. Much of the proceeds will go to Norway's huge sovereign wealth fund - the largest in the world - to support the country when oil runs out. The government is not considering redirecting these funds elsewhere.
European countries, meanwhile, helped drive up Norwegian energy prices in an attempt to diversify supplies from Russia.
Europe is pleading with Norway, as well as countries such as Qatar and Algeria, to help deal with the deficit. Norway supplies between 20% and 25% of natural gas to Europe, while Russia supplied 40% before the war.
Despite this, Oslo has responded to European calls for more gas by issuing permits to operators to produce more gas this year. Thanks to tax incentives, companies are investing in new offshore projects, and a new gas pipeline to Poland will open this autumn.
The situation is far from June 2020, when prices collapsed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the previous Norwegian government introduced tax breaks for oil companies to encourage investment and protect jobs.
Combined with high energy prices, incentives expiring at the end of the year have prompted companies in Norway to release a range of plans to develop new oil and gas projects.
However, these projects will only start producing oil and gas at the end of this decade, or even in the more distant future, when the political situation may change and many European countries will hope that most of their energy consumption will switch to renewable energy sources.
By then, Norway is likely to face the more familiar criticism that it is contributing to climate change.