Puncturing the pristine? The Norwegian government is considering allowing oil and gas drilling on the edge of the Arctic ice sheet despite environmental and economic concerns | Photo: Safety4seas.com

Norway likely to approve plans to drill for oil at the very edge of Arctic ice sheet

The Norwegian government has closed a round of public consultations on whether to start drilling for oil and gas at the very edge of the Arctic ice sheet in summer (June), and rumors are that Oslo may approve the plans, even though any oil spill in the region may be disastrous for the yet pristine ecosystem. The nine new oilfields in question are risky in terms of profitability as well, and the region itself is currently regulated under the Svalbard treaty. There are also fears that Norway’s venture could spark a military standoff with neighbouring Russia, which governs the adjoining Franz Josef Land archipelago. 

The Norwegian government has been sent an open letter by Greenpeace, Nature & Youth, WWF and Friends of the Earth Norway, urging that the decision be reconsidered as there is no technology yet to clean up oil spills in the frigid waters of the Arctic. 

CSE finds serious faults with India’s decision to auction new coal blocks

A new study released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has raised serious questions over the Indian government’s decision to auction 41 new coal blocks, saying that developing the blocks would come at the expense of dense forest cover and indigenous inhabitants. The study points to the fact that since 2015, making way for new coal mines has led to the destruction of 19,000 hectares of forest cover (that was home to one million trees) and the displacement of more than 10,000 families. 

The CSE also says that the process of evaluating land as “Go” or “No-Go”, by which it is declared as “inviolate” to any development activity, is itself a farce as the parameters and the final decision can be tweaked—as has been revealed in the minutes of meetings. According to CSE Director Sunita Narain, “In 2020, of the 41 blocks put up for auction, 21 feature in the original No-Go list”. 

The report further points out that the thermal power sector — the major consumer of coal — is not expected to recover from its problems, and that out of all the mines auctioned since 2015, 67% were still not operational, which highlights the poor response to coal as a fuel for India’s target of energy security. 

Bangladesh considers moving to LNG instead of coal over fuel’s poor prospects

Bangladesh, one of the largest Asian customers of new coal capacity, is considering switching its 13GW worth of new coal projects to LNG as its Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources says the projects have made poor progress and secured little to no financing. The ministry is considering natural gas because of its lower emissions and costs, and the country may double its currency daily gas imports to 2,000 million cubic feet (mmcf) by 2030. It will, however, continue developing 5,371 MW of coal projects that are already underway, while it also has 8,750 MW of LNG projects in the pipeline. 

Bangladesh has been a key beneficiary of coal power financing, including from several Chinese banks. 

Australia may use green energy money to finance gas projects, NSW eyeing 21 new coal mines 

New legislation introduced to the Australian parliament could allow for the taxpayer-funded Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to finance natural gas projects, which has been justified under the pretext of building capacity that can be easily ramped up to balance the grid. The funding may be channelled under the “Grid Reliability Fund”, which is designed to help it bypass the CEFC’s requirement that at least 50% of the fund be invested in renewable energy. For its part, however, the legislation does propose pumped hydro storage as well. 

On the other hand, the state of New South Wales (NSW) could push through its mining council’s proposal to develop 21 new coal projects, bizarrely to pull the country out of the economic shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic, blazing forest fires and persistent drought. The proposal is part of a report titled “Mining for the Recovery” and argues that it is necessary to develop new coal mines to generate around 10,000 new jobs, even though the report also concedes that domestic demand for coal is low. If approved, the University of NSW estimates that the mines could together release 3,7171 million tons of CO2 emissions over their lifetimes—equivalent to seven years of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. 

ExxonMobil shunted out of Dow Jones, Norway’s Storebrand ASA jettisons ExxonMobil stock

US oil and gas giant ExxonMobil has fallen off the Dow Jones Industrial Average listing of stocks after it first joined the rankings back in 1928, as its value has shrunk to $175 billion from $400 billion in the 2000s. Much of the decline has been due to the falling value of oil and gas stocks, and ExxonMobil will be replaced by Salesforce.com—which is a software firm that “better reflects the American economy”, according to the index. 
Shares of ExxonMobil (and Chevron, another American oil and gas giant) have also been dropped by Norway’s Storebrand ASA, which is a life insurance firm that manages around $91 billion worth of assets. It has also jettisoned its oil stocks from its Swedish unit and has been on the forefront of bringing together international pressure on Brazil over its clearing of the Amazon rainforest.

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