Polar Record

Research Article

The European Arctic in US foreign energy policy: the case of the Norwegian high north

Kristine Offerdala1

a1 Fridtjof Nansen Institute, P.O. Box 326, NO-1326 Lysaker, Norway

ABSTRACT

This article examines how US policy makers relate to the European Arctic as an oil and gas region, and more specifically to Norway's efforts to promote the region through its high north policy. The ‘high north’ is defined as the Norwegian and Russian sectors of the Barents Sea. The Norwegian assumption that northern oil and gas is of interest to the international community is tested by analysing and explaining the character of the US approach, with an assessment of whether Norway has succeeded in influencing how the USA views the high north as an energy region. Norway has managed to raise the awareness of the high north as an energy region in Washington, but the interest in the topic has been moderate. Moreover, Norwegian policy makers in the first phase of the high north initiative have misinterpreted US officials' definition of the situation in which Washington's foreign energy policy is developed. Ironically, Norway's ‘exemplary’ energy policy has led to less response than was initially expected, whereas Russia seems to be of significantly greater interest for the USA. With its relatively small resource potential, straightforward investment climate and unclear high north strategy, Norway and its high north do not stand out as very interesting to the USA, which tends to direct more attention to cases in which its oil and gas companies work under more uncertain investment framework conditions in regions with huge energy resources.

(Received March 2008)