Thursday, July 27, 2017

Lessons from Norway

For the last two weeks, the wife and I took a vacation to beautiful Norway to see the fjords and the North Cape, effectively the northernmost point in Europe. It was a visit though to the Norwegian Petroleum Museum in Stavanger that inspired this post.

The discovery of oil in the waters off Norway in 1969 completely changed the Norwegian economy, changing the way of life from a difficult agriculture and fishing society to a more comfortable oil-based economy. The museum had a surprisingly good introductory movie "Oil Kid" describes the challenging relationship of a man with his father who drew a comfortable life as an oil worker. Oil may have made Norway complacent as it lags behind its Scandinavian neighbors in non-oil based technological innovation.

The Norwegian government declared that the oil belonged to the people and created a fund that now totals nearly a trillion US dollars, over $150,000 per Norwegian citizen. Nevertheless as the price of oil remains low, Norway risks challenges as a country reliant on its production.

Norway now aims to be energy-neutral in the near future with extensive hydropower and wind mills. Norway has the highest percentage of electric cars of any country. The tiny town of Eidfjord, population about 1000, has a Tesla charging station. Odd to see this from a major oil exporter.

As computer scientists we have "struck oil," also leading a revolutionary change to our economy with its winners and losers. In fifty years will we look back and regret what we have wrought? 

1 comment:

  1. It should be mentioned, though, that Eidfjord is in the middle of Oslo and Bergen.

    The trip from Bergen to Oslo (and back) is a fun test for the current battery status, let's define the across-the-mountains-number of a vehicle the number of times it can go between Bergen and Oslo without refuelling (or recharging).

    I doubt that Tesla achieves an across-the-mountains-number of 2, but it's getting pretty close.

    Just this weekend I went from Bergen to Oslo and back with a diesel car, and the tank was still almost half full (empty). I would not be surprised if my car's across-the-mountains-number is close to 4.