With Parliamentary elections looming, more Norwegians than usual are asking themselves the tough questions. It is now apparent that the slump in oil is not a temporary one. What will the country do now? Time for the lottery winner, after receiving the last annuity, to get a job before burning out the savings. Many are looking towards the sea, fishing and exploiting underwater natural resources. Others are looking to blast open the mountains to do the same.
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However, commodity based economies, third-world in nature, are subject to mother nature’s whims, innovation, and ruthless competition. Moreover, it creates complacency, catching the nation off guard when there is a shift in the supply curve (instead of hitting peak oil, the opposite happened). Hence, the decisions or lack thereof, made during the next four years will impact future generations. Two generations of Norwegians grew up on the delusion that their society, built on pre-socialist values and high oil prices, can endure any challenge.
The Fund’s withdraws could accelerate amid a global financial crisis: politicians burning cash to shore up the economy and secure votes.
Taking the sovereign wealth fund (The Fund) for granted, many fail to realize that the underlying investments are all pinned to the prevailing low-interest rate climate. If inflation gets out of control and rates must be pushed up to cut it off, the effect on stock and bond values could be substantial.
Norwegian GDP growth correlates to oil prices.
Currently, assuming constant tax revenues, budget and oil fund value, Norway is in great shape: able to fill the budget gap for the next 30 years. But then what? Also, one must ask, how often do assumptions, which depend on everything remaining constant, endure the test of time? Is it possible to dodge a decade’s worth of black swans, some of which haven’t even been born yet? Based on observation, most believe that a miracle will happen, like it did in the past (stumbling onto one of the largest oil reserves just offshore), or the situation will just work itself out.
The New Normal
Yesterday’s lows are today’s highs: far off the $70/barrel required to balance the budget. Technology turned oil, a once scarce resource, into an abundant commodity.
Rising rig counts rose, in the latest months, despite flat to downward trending oil prices, indicate lower break-even prices.
The technology from the American Energy Renaissance, is going global, offering all nations additional options, regarding energy sources. In addition to continuously improving fracking technology, clean coal, natural gas, wind, and geo-thermal sources, further reducing the need for imported hydrocarbons.
The Fish Story vs. Reality
Although many Norwegian leaders believe that the nation can switch from one commodity to another, fish cannot replace oil. However, the Norwegian Salmon’s strong brand equity could be diminished by increased on production on the back of industrial techniques. Moreover, commodity production, especially this kind, can be replicated worldwide.
The coastlines of the UK, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Chile, Maine, Alaska, Japan, and Russia offer similar habitats, suitable for fish farming, like those of coastal Norway. Moreover, fish farming is not rocket science. The required equipment is available on Alibaba. Perhaps that’s where Salmar bought their latest system.
Sources: Statistics Norway: SSB.no and Fish Information and Services (FIS.com)
In addition to the law of supply and demand realities, new entrants joining the marketplace as long as profit opportunity exists, industrial fish farming offers a new set of problems:
- Sea Lice poses one of the greatest challenges. Concentrated and congested in relatively small pens, the critters spread quickly, contaminating entire batches. Although the lice itself is not harmful to humans, it kills the fish. Currently, the Norwegian Ministry of Food and Industry states that there is a high risk of fish dying from lice between Karmøy and Sotra. Sometime soon, they will have a color code system (red, yellow, or green), overlaying a map of the nation’s coastlines, indicating risk levels.
- Escapes post a major environmental hazard similar to that of Kudzu in the American South. When the genetically engineered (GMO) fish find their way into the open seas, they inevitably breed with the wild fish, weakening and mutating them. Based on a recent study, the problem is widespread.
Scientists tested half the rivers in Norway and found that every wild Atlantic Salmon population contains significant “Frankenstein” genes, introduced by the GMOs. Escapes happen when storms tear open the containment nets, freeing hundreds of thousands of Salmon. Also, sloppy handlers and smolt (baby salmon) can slip out of containment system. The problem was so widespread in 2013 after a major “jailbreak”, which freed 127,000 fish, that a major fish producer offered a bounty: $90 per recaptured fish.
Nutritional differences exist between farm raised and natural salmon. Source: Alexandra Morton – an activist in Canada. Norwegian salmon distinguishes and defines itself on quality. Mass production could diminish that advantage.
Fish, especially Salmon, are an important component to the Norwegian economy but considering the public expenditure, marketplace competition, and industry risks outlined above, it will not carry the country forward.
Debt Fueled Economy
Nevertheless, Norway continues to party on. The nearly trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund can carry the nation forward until they find a strategic replacement to oil: but for how long?
Norwegian consumers are some of the most indebted in the world while the national government runs accelerating deficits in the face of a declining oil industry. Source: SSB.no and the Norwegian Ministry of Finance
There are risks that could shorten that ability. Consumer debt, fueled by excessively low interest rates and rapidly growing money supply as well as a widening budget gap, could stoke a crisis. Such a crisis, generally international in nature, could also hit asset prices in a time of need, reducing the lead time from 30 years to perhaps 10. Imagine withdrawals accelerate while The Fund’s value takes a hit from a major stock market pullback and bursting of the bond bubble?
Source: SSB.no M1 ,M2 & M3 Money Supply Aggregates. It is quite apparent that once issued, currency is hard to take back. Norwegians are not supposed to discuss this but rather just trust in Norges Bank.
Sadly, very few Norwegians understand the underlying economics tied to their prosperity, blindly believing the headlines and Central Bank headline statements. Who is richer, the guy with a new BMW bought on credit or the used Chevy bought with cash? Culturally, there is a lot of public trust in Norges Bank (The Norwegian Central Bank) and the mainstream media. No one appears to question the consequences of simultaneously persistent negative real interest rates and rising in money supply (systematic currency destruction and standard of living degradation).
Based on street level observations and conversations with the politicians, campaigning for the September 11, 2017 general election, it appears that “kick the can down the road” is the way to go. Politics is the art of delaying a decision until it is no longer relevant. Hence, they could burn this fund out, trying to buy votes for the next elections, taking place every two years (alternating national and local elections every two years).
The Critical Need for Leadership vs. Management
Generally, Norwegians are overly skeptical, unimaginative, and cautious, hindering their ability to innovate and invent on a grand scale. Letting a generation slide by without thinking about the future affirms that. There is no industry stepping in to cover oil, revealed in the trade figures above.
Instead of investigating the facts about the Paris Agreement, Norwegian leaders jumped on the bandwagon, signing the speculative and flawed agreement because everyone else did.
Europeans love per-capita statistics. Very few nations can compete with Minnesota in innovation.
Instead, they should have used their influential position, regarding environmental issues, to question the underlying science. The agreement is based on speculation and voluntary compliance by third-world nations, still struggling with human rights and corruption. If Trump had not withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, the world would have become complacent, believing the environmental crisis was solved. Essentially, they would have falsely believed that India could enforce the rules.
On paper and at the UN, such nations can say anything. However, the reality on the ground is very different. Considering India’s massive population and the public sector pay scale, individual factories will operate “business as usual,” paying bribes to the uninterested civil servants, getting them off their back. It is naïve to think otherwise.
Living in Northern Brazil for a brief time, I personally witnessed farmers and ranchers blatantly cut down rain forest, despite the rules, to expand grazing land. Hence, Russia and China will outright lie. Then, twenty years from now, we will be in the midst of an environmental disaster, caused by unaccounted third-world development.
Remember, that Hitler’s Germany, built up a military in secret, unleashing it on the world by surprise. The solution to climate change and environmental havoc requires much more than a piece of paper designed to crippled American development to the benefit of third world nations.
Therefore, the Paris Agreement would have doomed the planet, offering a delusion that problem had been “solved” after signing. Much needed attention to the environment would have been diverted to something trivial like removing offensive statues. Environmental issues go far beyond emissions. It also includes plastic in the oceans, clean drinking water, and deforestation in India, Africa, and South America.
The Paris Agreement forgot those issues. Our allies should have seen through this fallacy and expressed interest in real solutions, especially the Norwegians.
Hence, Norwegians need to elect a decisive “Viking like leader.” Someone with lofty ambitions and ideals who is daring, seizing the opportunity with Thorium. The land of fire and ice not only holds around 15% of the world’s thorium supply but also leads in reactor technology development. Thor Energy (Halden, Norway) is in the second phase of a five-year trial, validating the viability as a commercial energy source.
This technology offers the basis to a comprehensive environmental solution that would not only cover emissions but also take care of ocean plastic, deforestation, and chronic poverty. Integrating it with other existing Norwegian technologies: shipbuilding (Aker), automated garbage sorting (Tomra Systems), autonomous systems (Kongsberg Defense) and heavy engineering (Kongsberg Maritime) and working with North African leaders, Norwegian industry could fill the massive Sahara Desert with water, terraforming it into a lush rain forest and vast fields.
The Genesis of New Greenland
Running massive Thorium powered desalinization plants, pumping water into the dessert underground over the next 100+ years, vegetation and eventually forests could take root. A new society would emerge, built on green values and sustainable technologies. That concept would do more to ensure our planets survival than a piece of paper, written by professional politicians intended to upend America.
But how could we make this happen? It would require the massive integration of existing technologies and proven concepts:
The massive dessert, larger than the United States, was once a rain forest, recycling massive amount of CO2. Thorium technologies could restore that quicker than the Paris Agreement could lower temperatures by .5 degrees over the same time period.
- Ship Building: Norway is already a leader in specialty ships and the floating nuclear reactor concept has been around for over 50 years. Once the people in Halden industrialize the Thorium concept, they can mount the reactors onto highly automated ships, ensuring safety, security, efficiency.
Two types of ships are needed. The first would be one that generates electricity and desalinizes seawater. The second type would collect ocean plastic, turning into drip irrigation equipment.
- Electricity created by the onboard powerplant could be delivered from ship to shore by undersea cable, directly into a modern grid.
- Desalinization technology, using excess heat generated by nuclear powerplants, already exists. For the past 20+ years, India, Japan, and Kazakhstan have been doing this on an industrial scale.
- Drip Irrigation tubing, pipes, and other fixtures can be made from recycled ocean plastic onboard a thorium powered ship as it collects plastic from the massive Pacific Ocean plastic patch (it is the size of Mexico). Water would be delivered by pipeline from the shipboard plant to shore, distributed underground and directly to the plant root systems.
Israel has already proven that drip irrigation works: growing crops in the dessert with almost 90% less water than by open air.
Drip Irrigation in Libya, sourcing water from an underground aquifer. It would be better to use purified seawater, preserving the underground systems. Therefore, It is already possible to grow forests in the desert with this technology.
- Modular Housing Components, also made from ocean plastic onboard the Thorium powered collections ships, could provide a place to live for many of the worlds displaced people and SJW’s. The houses could be covered in Earth and vegetation protecting residents from the elements in a cost-efficient manner. Those same people could also work in the field cultivating various crops for export and consumption, making this model sustainable.
Dirt prefabricated homes – Green Magic Homes Over time, the dessert above in Libya could look like this. Eventually a rainforest canopy could take root, furthering the reduction of carbon-dioxide.
The rainforests throughout the world act as our planet’s lungs, cycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. Hence, this concept would not only clean up the ocean but also turn the dessert into a rain forest over the next few hundred years, permanently and naturally balancing carbon dioxide instead of depending on human compliance.
The question is who would pay for it and what would be the return?
- National government funds in Europe set aside for refugees could be spent on making them a new nation, which they will have a part in building and take pride in.
- Bored billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and George Soros who supposedly want to do some good in the world.
- Multi-National Corporations that supported the Paris Agreement and oppose President Trump.
- The return would be from crop and electricity exports as well as tourism. In addition, this new nation would be leaders in ocean plastic recycling innovation, selling housing solutions throughout the world. Norway could be at the forefront as an investor and benefactor.
The greatest consequences of Nordic socialism are how it instills a lack of courage and imagination when facing global problems. For such a system to work, people must be mostly compliant and amicable. Currently, Norway can manage the economic shift by drawing from The Fund but I would hope that they want to do more than just get by. It is obvious that betting on fish is a bad idea.
However, culture of modesty and skepticism holds them back. Norway needs to think big if it wants to maintain the standard of living for future generations. They need to move beyond apps and electronic gadgets to true innovation: the kind that changes the world.
Think about that when voting on September 11, 2017!
Article by Nick Kamran - Letters from Norway