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Towards energy independence

Helping Lebanon strengthen transparency in the oil and gas sector

by Svein Aass

The dictum ‘the Stone Age did not come to an end because the world ran out of stone’ still rings true. The transition to forms of energy other than oil, gas and coal will happen — and is happening — and therefore will continue to happen in 2015.

In fact, 2015 will serve to remind us that the world will not come off fossil fuels for many decades. Globally, we get a miniscule 0.3 percent of our energy from solar and wind power, and will only get 3.5 percent from them in 2035, according to the International Energy Agency. In 2015, the world will get a full 82 percent of its energy from fossil fuels.

Therefore, in 2015, Norway will continue to offer assistance to 15 developing countries in their efforts to manage petroleum resources in a sustainable manner. Oil and gas play an important role in an increasing number of developing countries, and have the potential to generate economic and social development in several cases. However, it has proven difficult to translate resource riches into improved well being for ordinary citizens. In over four decades of managing oil and gas resources, Norway has learned the importance of: strategic government stakeholdership; strong and competent institutions; a steady build-up of technical knowledge; an advanced regulatory system with high respect for the environment and safety; and perhaps above all, society’s determination to secure national control over petroleum resources.

Norway thus launched the ‘Oil for Development’ program to share this knowledge in 2005, and has been providing petroleum related development assistance to Lebanon since 2006 — with major achievements made in the development of a legal framework for the petroleum sector, as well as capacity enhancement in government institutions, such as the successful Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA).

Support through the ministries

In 2015 support will be flowing to the fields of resources, safety, environment, and revenue management through the relevant ministries. The main approach will be to support capacity development through institutional collaboration. Program activities will be targeting the LPA, the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Environment. Other relevant ministries and stakeholders may also be involved. The activities will be assisted by petroleum management experts in Norwegian public institutions, including the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the Norwegian Environment Authority, the Petroleum Safety Authority in Norway, the Norwegian Oil Taxation Office and the Norwegian Coastal Administration. The International Monetary Fund will provide support with revenue management.

[pullquote]In 2015, the quest for energy independence or diversity will once more come to the fore[/pullquote]

Furthermore, strengthening accountability and transparency, including providing support to civil society actors, can be foreseen in 2015. The program is expected to target the main transparency actors, such as decisionmakers, civil society organizations, the media, as well as public control institutions, including parliament. The LPA and related government institutions will benefit from a more informed and fact-based public discussion, enhanced from customized training courses, joint conferences and delegation visits to Norway. Accountability and transparency are important factors to ensure the success of the first offshore licensing round and the development of the petroleum sector in Lebanon. Transparency would allow national actors in the accountability chain to be able to hold the government to account for the management of national resources. Transparency is also an important factor in preventing corruption.

In 2015, we will see Lebanese stakeholders come together to launch the process of exploration that could speed up the petroleum era in Lebanon, as has already happened in neighboring countries.

In 2015, the quest for energy independence or diversity will once more come to the fore. This has been highlighted by the unwise use of the oil and gas ‘weapon’ by some exporting countries. New technologies, new petroleum provinces and new forms of energy will all play a role in increasing energy autonomy and reducing vulnerability. Norway will continue to play a constructive role in 2015 in this regard. Lately, Norwegian companies played a crucial role in helping Lithuania break the stranglehold of foreign control of its energy supply. Liquified natural gas and the required transport capacity were both provided. For Lebanon, the financial and energy independence that could result from the export of petroleum could reduce political influence from abroad — and 2015 could be the start of such a process.

Support our fight for economic liberty &
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Svein Aass

Svein Aass is the Norwegian ambassador to Lebanon

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1 comment

rebeccafrank January 14, 2015 - 11:52 AM

Norway is executing an incredible job with its energy-efficient programs on oil and fuel. The country is an example to many nations on how it has managed its priorites towards its concerns as with the one like energy resources!!

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