Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway said that Norway would learn from the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and apply the “lessons learnt”. The opening of new deep-water oil fields was clearly on his mind. In April of 2010, Norway and Russia ended a 40-year dispute with Russia over claims in the eastern Barents Sea in the Arctic. The line delineates fishing and energy sovereign claims.
The reason that this agreement was struck has everything to do with climate change and growing demand. The convergence of increasing demand and better conditions for exploitation, because of climate change, creates a general market thirst for oil. Norway’s oil fields are starting to run down and they hoped these new fields would revitalize the industry.
The spill has put those plans in danger. Environmental safety concerns are naturally now at the top of the list for Arctic drilling. The lesson is however a bit of today and a bit of yesterday. The Norwegians may find more relevance in the cold-water spill of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska than in the warm-water Gulf spill, at least in terms of environmental consequence.
Some environmentalists say the real indicator of the impact of the Gulf spill will be in the nesting patterns of birds that roost in the Gulf and travel north for the summer. Ironically, they may be flying from the Gulf to the Arctic. One day, there may be spills at both their homes. What is the lesson from the Gulf spill that Norway can learn? All we know is that they would like to do better.