The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a financial windfall for Norway. Russia was the main supplier of natural gas to Europe until it dramatically reduced supplies in retaliation for western sanctions over the invasion. This sent the price of natural gas soaring.
Through increased production from oil and gas fields in the seas off its coast, Norway has replaced Russia as the main supplier of natural gas to Europe and is enjoying record profits. The Green Party of Norway questions the morality of this windfall as it comes at the expense of the Ukrainian people.
There has been a sevenfold increase in the price of natural gas since 2021. Oslo anticipates a 94 billion euro profit from the petroleum industry this year, up from 65 billion the year before. Green Party Parliamentarian, Rasmus Hansson, concludes that it is “morally wrong” to gain from price rises driven by war. He further warns that Norway runs the risk of damaging international relations with European states that are struggling to adjust to reduced supply and higher prices.
Hansson states; “we think Norway is being short-sighted and selfish. We are getting a windfall of profit which is very big, but the question is does that money belong to us as the most obvious reason for that price increase and that extra income is the disaster that has befallen the Ukrainian people?”
Hansson fears alienating European allies by charging inflated prices. He also wants to redirect any windfall, suggesting that experts set the “normal price” for gas, and any amount paid above that would be “war profits” that should go to a “solidarity fund” to help rebuild Ukraine after the war.
The Green Party only holds 3 of 169 seats in Norway’s Parliament, and Hansson made little progress in impressing his colleagues with his concerns. The Norwegian Government, a center-left coalition of Social Democrats and the Center Party, has thus far resisted demands for price caps and/or redirecting profits.
The Government argues that Norway is showing solidarity with its European allies through hiking production to replace lost energy supplies from Russia and that it is not fair that they should be blamed for market forces beyond their control.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt states that as there is a shortage of natural gas in Europe, it should be the primary duty of Norway to supply the rest of the continent with that gas.
Leaders elsewhere in Europe have been more receptive to the concerns expressed by Norway’s Greens. Several nations, including Italy, Belgium, Poland, Greece, and Sweden, have called on the European Union to cap energy prices. While the focus has been on capping the price of Russian supplies, concerns have also been expressed about Norway. Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, describes the prices being paid to Norway for gas as “disturbing”.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Norway should share the “gigantic” profits. President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, is discussing a “task force” with Norway to look at how they could lower the price of gas in a reasonable manner.
External pressure may be causing Norway to soften its position. Huitfeltd acknowledges that Norway has an interest in “normalizing the prices and ending the distortion of the energy market.” Although in the past, he has repeatedly rejected any price caps on exported gas, during recent meetings at the United Nations in New York, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre expressed a willingness to consider such caps, stating that “no solution should be off the table.”