International Environmental Laws on Oil/Gas Production Effects Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

International Environmental Laws on Oil/Gas Production

Effects of Oil and Gas Production to the Environment in Norway

Over the years, oil and gas production companies have been a serious global concern. This is due to impacts on the environment associated with its production. International principles setup aims at governing the extraction and usage of such sources of energy. Norway is located in Europe, located near North Sea. Its high level of energy production has highly boosted the Gross National product (GNP) of Europe. Oil, gas and hydroelectric power having contributed significantly to the rapid development of industries in Europe and contribute around 50% to the economy. Discovery of oil and gas was in early 1960's, and currently, Norway is the seventh largest producer of oil and gas internationally. There have been contravenes between energy producing industries and the environmental activists. Several principles set to govern energy production have been set, and any energy company willing to expand should put such principles into (Gardinerr et al., 2003) consideration (Edwards, 1998, p 23-25).

Extraction of oil and gas as sources of energy involves combustion of fossil fuels, which in turn emit carbon dioxide gas to the atmosphere. These gases build up in the atmosphere causing global warming effects especially in the Northern part of Europe where Norway lies. Oil spills and chemicals are discharges into the water bodies during transportation of oil from the offshore to mainland. This endangers the life of aquatic and terrestrial animals and causes imbalance of the ecosystem. Fishing in Norway along the shores is also another economic practice of the Norwegians that has declined over time due to gas and oil extraction in Norway. Oil and chemical spillage threats this industry, although fishing plays a vital role in building up the Norwegian economy too (Harn et al., 2008, p. 73).

Therefore, policies have been set to govern the environment, to maintain the non-polluted environment during extraction and production of oil and gas. The principle of common, but differentiated, responsibilities in oil and gas production focuses on reducing emission of gases during production, that build up in the atmosphere (Rio Declaration, 1992: chapter 7). Oil and gas producing country should take measures on reducing emissions, aimed at attaining a common goal of reducing the greenhouse effect globally. This principle focusses on responsibility of every state. It informs on differentiated treatment, analyses the differential treatment and highlights the benefits of such deferential measures taken (Fitzmaurice, 2010, p 161). The principle held the country responsible on the decisions they have taken on gas emissions, although, at times, the country might ignore (Gardiner et al., 2003, p 139). Carbon has been the chief gas emitted in Norway due to fossil fuel combustion, but, over the years, it has reduced. Charging carbon emission tax during oil and gas extraction ranges between $30 to $40.

Precautionary principle states that any dubious activity that will pollute the environment should be prevented rather than cleaning up after pollution. This principle prevents the practice of any doubted activities that might pollute the environment, unless proven otherwise. Over the years, this principle has more rhetorical. Over time, questions are raised to question the principle, with legal instruments set up to ensure oil and gas industries bind by it (Gao, p 77). Over time, precaution principle has not been put into consideration especially to companies licensed with environmental sensitive activity. The basis on which the precautionary principle issued to companies is not proportionate, and this serves as a limiting factor of the principle. Courts have set international standards based on mere presumption that, in the scientific development, it comes along with uncertainties that might cause detrimental effect on the environment (Marr, 2003, p 78).

The principle of sustainable development implies minimal depletion of environment and maximizes the use of oil and gas products putting into consideration the present and future interests. Gas and oil products are a non-renewable source of energy hence should be maximized in its usage. The major concern of oil and gas producing countries is to maximize revenue from oil and gas products due to their non-renewable nature, rather that putting into consideration the depletion of environment (Gao, p 436-438). The use of oil and gas leads to their exhaustion, which thrives for maximizing the products.

Polluters pay principle states that any oil and gas producing companies are responsible for any offshore discharge of oil and gas during their extraction processes. Such discharge increases the acidity levels of water, due to the release of sulphur dioxide and nitrogenous gas in to the atmosphere. This reduces water quality due to acidic rains experienced.

Prevention of Trans-boundary principle aims at international prevention of environmental pollution in the trans-boundary context. It also aims at educating the public on rightful decision making and involves participation and consultation of leading states in participation of projects that have significant and adverse impact on prevention of environmental pollution (Pcogdy, 1999, p 80). Trans-boundary principle also aims at equalizing distribution of resources in the utilization of oil and gas products within the state of production. Utilization of oil and gas products involves the population, their economic and social interest. Reducing environmental pollution within the Trans boundary is also another crucial goal of the principle. Although, over the years, there have been efforts and projects to reduce environmental pollution, still it is not fully abolished, and resources within the oil and gas producing states (Schrijver, 2010, p 141). Licensing of oil and producing firms do not prevent the effect of production to the environment. As much as the license is being issued to producing firms, it acts as permission to emit any pollutant to the environment, since it abides by law only in the sense that current capabilities of human cannot control them (Xue, 2003, p 311).

The use of environmental resources, such as production of oil and gas, involves regional understanding of the environment surrounding. Municipal and regional authorities have taken part to ensure predictability, secure trust and understanding in the border areas. Efforts to enhance co-operation in local and international levels are, hence, made for successful development. Norway is among the Northern regional organization that aim at mutual understanding and co-operation of the four regions in production of oil and gas. The Northern dimension aims at maximizing the benefits from the product, with minimal, negative impact to the environment. The four states, however, have their own identities and distinct, different history. This makes implementation of policies difficult within the four states to perform a similar task, of reducing environmental pollution (Schymic, 2011, p 52).

As much as several efforts have been made to reduce environmental pollution during oil and gas extraction in Norway, still, the state faces the threat of environmental pollution. Several environmental groups and the government itself have taken part in reducing such pollution. Several steps can be taken to reduce pollution in Norway.

Global pollution policies should be implemented to ensure that pollution is stopped. Such policies include UNCED follow up process. This process in agenda 21 calls for additional process, which will reduce, pollution on sea and marine pollution. Offshore pollution should be stopped by following policies like IMO and other international organizations. Stopping this pollution can be by using relevant organizations to address the issue who will pass policies to control pollution. Policies to regulate pollution from ships should be put in place, to ensure least pollution occurs. Implementing of such policies, despite being passed globally, countries are far from compliance in the near future, thus makes policies difficult to implement (Gao, 96).

Growing of forests, which cover large areas, will ensure that carbon dioxide gas emissions are minimal. This is because forests take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere effectively. Existing forest cover should be protected to control deforestation as this improves carbon intake. Soil can be enhanced by bio char, which improves soil ability to store carbon dioxide while soil quality is improved. Carbon can be captured by physical methods at the source of production.

Physical methods to store carbon dioxide can be used to prevent carbon from going back to the atmosphere. This stored carbon can later be stored into aquifers on land or under the sea. Sometimes, carbon can be pumped under pressure to a considerable depth, which will make it viscous, hence making it possible to be stored under the sea. This underground storage is permanent and safe although earthquakes can cause a serious disaster if the underground storage is affected. Norway has used taxing methods in the past for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions. This has reduced the emissions, causing profits instead of losses caused by carbon emissions. Careful and safety precautions should be implemented and taxed to prevent carelessness and avoidable emissions (Marqutta, 2010, p 204).

Carbon dioxide can be converted into hydrocarbons after being captured like gasoline production. This will enclose the carbon cycle ensuring that it is used and recycled to fuel. Studies in this area should be improved to make it successful and achievable.…

Sources Used in Document:


Development of E.C.O.A., 2001. Environmental Performance Reviews: Norway. Holand: OECD publishers.

Edwards, J., 1998. Europe. Scandinavia: Nelson Thornes Publishers.

Fitzmaurie, M., 2010. Research Handbook on Iinternational Environmental Law. 3rd ed. New York: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Gardinerr, S., Caney, S. & Jamieson, D., 2003. Climate Ethics: Essential Readings. 1 ed. Chicago: Springer.

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