The Norwegian state has earned large amounts of money since the beginning of the UN-backed international military operations in Libya because of the effect of the conflict on oil prices – something which Amnesty International Norway believes could lead to “a problem for Norway’s reputation.” Meanwhile, the country’s defense minister refused to confirm whether Norwegian fighter jets were involved in Monday’s attack on Colonel Gadhafi’s headquarters, despite American sources reporting Norway’s role.
When the missions began in Libya and oil exports from the country ceased, oil prices increased by around NOK 106 (USD 20) per barrel. Norway has since then sold roughly 1.67 million barrels of crude oil, along with 1.79 million barrels of dry gas and 530,000 barrels of liquid gas. If 85 percent of the earnings from these sales come into the government budget as expected, the country will have earned around NOK 300 million (nearly USD 57 million) per day and total earnings of about NOK 21 billion (almost USD 4 billion), according to estimates by newspaper Aftenposten.
‘A problem with our reputation’
The sharp increase in oil prices experienced at the start of the bombing of Libya was by some estimates the largest jump in costs since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Many oil analysts in Norway, such as Thina Saltvedt of Nordea Markets who spoke to Aftenposten, believe that this shows that Norway and the world must “develop other energy sources” and “become less dependent on oil.”
Amnesty International Norway’s general secretary, John Peder Egenæs, told Aftenposten that the news presents a problem for the country in terms of its diverse international roles, and might be misinterpreted in the region where opponents of the mission have suggested that the war is about oil. “When we earn so intensely from war and conflict, we can risk having a problem with our reputation in this part of the world,” Egenæs said. “Norway sells itself deliberately as a country that works hard for peace, reconciliation and human rights.”
Egenæs was quick to add that “at the same time, it would be completely crazy if we did not engage because we earn money from higher oil prices.” He nonetheless added that “when we earn so much from war, we can only ask if we should do even more.”
Defense minister ‘reserved’
American sources confirmed that Norwegian fighter jets were involved in bombing a key base for Colonel Gadhafi on Monday, something which the Norwegian defense ministry still refuses to admit publicly. Defense minister Grete Faremo told Aftenposten that “we wish to protect our pilots” and, in “a small environment,” she would “not connect individual planes or pilots to individual missions.”
Some journalists in the Norwegian media were disappointed with this stance. Per Edgar Kokkvold, the general secretary of the Norwegian Press Association, told Aftenposten that it is “not understandable that Norway should be more reserved than Denmark.” Danish authorities release information every day on which targets its forces have attacked, without connecting these missions to particular pilots or aircraft.
Faremo also answered questions on whether the mission was intended to kill Gadhafi himself, stating that Norway stayed within the limits of the UN resolution that did not include this as a legitimate goal. Analysts commenting in Aftenposten suggested that had the mission killed the Libyan leader, the oil price would have fallen USD 10.