Gasoline prices hit new all-time high

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Even though Norway is an oil-producing nation, it’s always had high prices for gasoline (petrol) because of heavy taxes to discourage use of private cars. Now the prices are higher than ever before, because of rising oil prices and the strong Norwegian currency. The violence in Libya, meanwhile, is fueling the high oil prices and Norway wants to stay out of it unless there’s UN support for any NATO involvement.

When converted to US dollars, Norwegians are now paying more than USD 10 a gallon for the standard grade of unleaded gasoline (called 95 blyfri). Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reports that posted prices at Shell stations in Norway, for example, hit NOK 14.12 per liter for unleaded this week, meaning it costs motorists as much as NOK 600 (USD 107) or more now to fill up their tanks.

Higher taxes get much of the blame
State oil company Statoil was charging even more, with its list price for unleaded at its retail gas stations set at NOK 14.23 per liter. That’s the highest ever charged in Norway, while this week also marks the first time prices for unleaded have topped NOK 14.

“The highest list price we’ve ever had for unleaded was NOK 13.98 on July 16, 2008,” Lillian Aasheim, communications chief for Shell, told DN.

Oil prices have been higher, as much as USD 147 a barrel in 2008, as compared to around USD 115 a barrel now. Today’s higher prices at the pump are blamed on higher taxes. State taxes for every liter of gasoline in Norway currently amount to NOK 7.30, the equivalent of about USD 5.31 per gallon. The gasoline itself costs NOK 4.50 per liter wholesale to the stations, with the extra roughly NOK 3 linked to the dealers’ markup.

United on staying out of Libya
Gasoline prices are expected to keep rising, given the revolutions going on in the Middle East and especially in Libya. All of Norway’s political parties, meanwhile, support the left-center government’s opposition to any Norwegian involvement in military action in Libya by NATO without the support of the United Nations.

It’s not common for the government and the opposition to agree on many issues, but none of the parties in Parliament favours Norway’s involvement in an assault on Moammar Gadafi’s regime in Libya unless it’s sanctioned by the UN. “I think it’s only natural that (a military action) would be handled through the UN first,” Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, foreign policy spokesperson for the Conservative Party (Høyre) told newspaper Aftenposten. “If countries begin to act on their own, it can make the situation in Libya even more explosive.”

The only party that hinted at support for a NATO action without support from the UN was the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet), Norway’s most conservative party. “It’s natural for us to cooperate with our allies in NATO and not rule out a military attack to stop the serious violations of human rights in Libya,” Progress Party leader Siv Jensen told Aftenposten. “But there’s all reason to believe that NATO will stay in line with the UN.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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