Report From Norway: Why They Don't Have an Energy Crisis and We Do

I am writing to you this week from Norway, where Callista and I have witnessed extraordinary natural beauty – and some things America could learn about creating a more sensible balance between protecting the environment and finding more domestic sources of energy.

Newt and Callista participate in a sea safari in Bodo, Norway.

You see, Norway, unlike the United States, has successfully avoided the “everywhere versus nowhere” trap when it comes to drilling offshore for oil and gas.

The “everywhere versus nowhere” trap results when aggressive energy developers demand the unconstrained right to drill everywhere while environmental extremists assert that drilling can occur nowhere. This is the stalemate we currently have in the United States, with disastrous consequences. Emotion trumps science. Regulation blocks innovation. And sound methods of achieving energy independence are overlooked and underdeveloped. And gas prices go up, up, up.

Windmills produce energy near Trondheim, Norway.

Sub-Artic landscape near the North Cape in Norway.

Grass roofs in Oslo, Norway.
Callista Gingrich – Gingrich Productions

A Case Study in Green Conservatism

The six days Callista and I have spent traveling around Norway have convinced us that Norway is a case study in Green Conservatism. Norway has struck a remarkable balance between respect for the environment and energy independence; between stewardship of the earth and global economic competition. It is a place of both enduring natural beauty and the third largest oil exporter in the world.

Our cruise on Hurtigruten cruise line has to rank among the most beautiful voyages in the world.

We visited an island with 1.3 million puffins, watched reindeer running five feet away from us through a fishing village (it was startling), saw sea eagles which are enormous and were once endangered but have had a huge comeback. There are now 2,500 pairs of sea eagles in Norway due to ending the use of the pesticides which were decimating them (proving, in good Green Conservative fashion, that there are good environmental causes).

All of this in a country that has made itself the 10th largest oil and gas producer in the world by doing something that is virtually off limits in the United States: Drilling offshore for oil and gas.

The U.S. Was Once a Leader in Offshore Drilling. Today Norway Is

The United States was a leader in the creation of the offshore drilling industry in the 1950s and early 1960s, but today it’s countries like Norway that are leaders in the field.

Norway’s annual output of 1.6 billion barrels of oil comes exclusively from offshore drilling. Oil and natural gas are transported through a network of sub seafloor pipelines. Norway is the home to the world’s largest natural gas drilling platform.

And the truly remarkable fact is that Norway has built this robust offshore oil and gas drilling industry alongside large and thriving fishing and tourism industries.

The Norwegian Model: Trust, Common Sense, and Green Conservatism

Norway has avoided the “everywhere versus nowhere” trap that has paralyzed U.S. offshore drilling through a common sense approach that is textbook Green Conservatism.

In Norway, strong environmental protections were part of exploration, drilling and transportation of oil and natural gas from the outset. This initial environmental emphasis has built the sense of trust necessary to allow Norway to move to a cooperative, performance-based model rather than a regulation-based model like we have in the U.S.

Norway has relatively few laws, regulations and government agencies that govern offshore drilling. Their equivalent of our Supreme Court – the Hoyesterett – reportedly declined jurisdiction over offshore drilling on the grounds that it lacks expertise!

The result is a policy in which environmental concerns are carefully balanced with energy needs. Norwegians have put some areas off-limits to drilling. In some areas, drilling is carefully circumscribed. But the point is that drilling occurs. Environmental concerns have informed – not pre-empted-Norway’s oil and gas industry.

The American Model: Distrust, Stalemate and Energy Crisis

Compare that to the United States, where a series of congressional prohibitions and presidential moratoria on offshore drilling – fed by public mistrust and largely unfounded environmental fears – have placed virtually all of the offshore United States off limits to drilling.

The United States is the only country in the world that so dramatically limits the exploration and development of its offshore oil and gas deposits.

The hysteria is so acute that both of our current presidential candidates even voted in 2005 in favor of willful ignorance about our domestic energy resources. Each voted for an amendment that would have removed from the energy bill that ultimately passed a provision for a comprehensive inventory of the oil and natural gas resources in the offshore continental shelf of the United States. Fortunately the amendment failed — even though one of the two candidates is still the sole sponsor of a bill to repeal the authorization of the inventory. You can read the inventory here that 44 U.S. Senators didn’t want you to read and learn that the U.S. Minerals Management Service estimates a mean of 85.9 billion barrels of undiscovered recoverable oil and a mean of 419.9 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered recoverable natural gas in the Federal Outer Continental Shelf of the United States.

I’m not suggesting that the United States adopt the level of government involvement in oil and gas that Norway has (its major petroleum producer, Statoil, is a public-private company). And I’m too much of a realist to think that the U.S. oil and gas industry and the environmental groups are going to suddenly sit down, hold hands together, and forget their differences.

What I am advocating is a more informed public making its demands of energy independence clear to our government.

New Poll Shows Broad, Bipartisan Support for Tapping Domestic Energy Sources, Including Offshore

Last week American Solutions released the results of new survey research dealing with energy security, coal and climate change. The adults surveyed made clear that Congress should prioritize increasing the availability of affordable energy over battling climate change.

In pursuit of the immediate goal of energy security, clear majorities of Americans of every political and ideological stripe advocated the U.S. tap into its voluminous domestic energy resources, including the oil located off its coasts and in Alaska and the coal deep within its grounds. Clean coal was particularly popular and Americans urged the swift building of zero emissions coal plants.

Americans prefer a greater use of domestic energy sources and an innovation-encouraging tax policy that rewards businesses for new energy solutions. While there were some political and ideological differences, for the most part, Americans stood united in favor of a smart, practical energy policy that would allow them to drive to work and power their homes without breaking their bank accounts. For additional information, including the survey results, click here.

A Vote to Watch: The Peterson Amendment to Lift the Offshore Drilling Moratorium

This week, Congressman John Peterson (R-Pa.) will offer an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would lift the congressional moratorium on offshore drilling.

Contact your member of Congress today and urge them to support the Peterson Amendment to restore sanity and common sense to our domestic energy policy.

Every American should keep their eyes on the House Appropriations Committee this week to see whether members vote to support our desire for environmentally responsible increased domestic energy production, or whether they continue to bury their heads in the sand.

The Dictators’ Roman Holiday

Now on to a completely different topic.

In a display of arrogance and hypocrisy that was outrageous even for the United Nations, UN food development officials last week accused the United States of raising global food prices by subsidizing ethanol production.

Actually, the outrage began even earlier.

Only the United Nations would invite a dictator who has purposefully starved his own people to a summit on the international food crisis. But that is precisely what happened in Rome last week. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who has starved his political enemies and channeled food aid to only favored groups, was in attendance, as was the Iranian dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It has already been one year since the U.S. Congress voted 411-2 to call on the UN Security Council to punish Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for violating the UN Charter and the UN Convention on Genocide for his repeated incitement of genocide against the Israeli people, yet the Iranian dictator is still welcome at UN events.

True to form, Ahmadinejad used the international spotlight to once again predict the demise of the state of Israel and accuse the U.S. of plotting an attack on him.

Mugabe accused the West, not his own genocidal policies, of starving his people.

In other words, it was a typical gathering for the United Nations.

Europe’s Resistance to GM Foods, Not America’s Support for Biofuels, Has Contributed to the Global Food Crisis

But the infuriating arrogance of UN bureaucrats lecturing the world’s largest provider of food aid – and the single greatest contributor to the UN food fund – cannot be allowed to pass without comment.

In fact, it is the Europeans irrational resistance to genetically modified (GM) crops – aided and abetted by extremists on the left — that is responsible for much of the hunger in Africa and the rest of the developing world.

GM crops that are commonplace in the U.S. – crops that don’t need expensive pesticides and even potentially are drought resistance – are banned in Europe. And Europe and the Left’s misinformation about the health and safety of these foods has led most African nations to ban them too for fear of being shut out of lucrative European export markets.

South Africa is the only African nation that grows GM crops. And while food production in the rest of Africa is 20 percent per capita less than it was in 1970, South Africa is producing surplus amounts of crops through biotechnology.

The U.S. Should Refuse to Participate in Future UN Charades

The UN food crisis gathering ignored the issue of GM foods, of course, but it did call on member nations to kick in at least $20 billion a year to help ease global hunger.

President Bush, who has tripled U.S. aid to Africa during his presidency, should ignore this demand and publicly refuse to participate in farces with vicious, murdering thugs like Mugabe and Ahmadinejad like the one in Rome last week.

President Bush should transition U.S. assistance to direct, bilateral forms only. Our willingness to allow UN bureaucrats and international dictators to lecture us in public strengthens them and isolates us. Far from feeding hungry people, it consigns them to lives of poverty, desperation and premature death.

For their good, and for our national self-respect, we should stop being a part this charade.

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich

P.S. — “The pacing of the book can sometimes leave you breathless, and more than once I found myself reading “just one more page” after I’d just finished two chapters. This is a great beach read for people who don’t always read beach books.” So says one reviewer of historian William Forstchen and my new novel, Days of Infamy. It makes a great Father’s Day gift. To get a signed copy by Father’s Day, place your order here by 5:00 pm EST Tuesday.

P.P.S. — I am tremendously gratified to report that our “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition drive has gathered the support of an astounding 450,000-plus Americans. But why stop here? If you haven’t signed the petition, do so now here. If you have already signed, send this link to five friends and ask them to become a part of the campaign to lower energy prices by developing our domestic energy resources.

Several elected officials endorsed the DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW, PAY LESS campaign last week along with several radio/television talk show hosts.

Many thanks to these leaders for taking a stand for real change by endorsing the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign:

  1. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
  2. U.S. Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.)
  3. State Sen. Amy Koch (R-Minn.) – “Feel free to add my name to the list. I think it is simple and clear. Bravo!”
  4. State Rep. Kevin Lundberg (R-Colo.) – “I have been and continue to be a strong advocate for the oil shale development here in Colorado and our nation as a whole.”
  5. Treasurer of Indiana, Richard Mourdock – ” THIS is the 08 equivalent of the Contract with America if used correctly because everyone ‘gets it.’ “
  6. President, Arkansas Republican Women Anne Britton
  7. 2010 Candidate for Georgia Governor, John Oxendine

Also watch this YouTube video and hear what Americans think of the high gas and diesel prices and what we should do about it.