The reorganisation of Statoil. “Clipping its wings” or symbolic politics?

person By Finn E Krogh, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The cross-party agreement which had prevailed at Statoil’s birth in 1972 did not last long. As early as 1973, when the company was to take over the state’s rights in Frigg, conflicts arose over its authority and the need for arrangements which ensured that elected politicians were in control.
— How much should we cut? Newspaper cartoonist Finn Graff addressed the current debate at the beginning of the final compromise negotiations between the government parties and the Labor Party. Facsimile from Arbeiderbladet, 15.03.84
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When the Conservative Party took office after the general election in 1981, the following were the most important accusations levelled against Statoil’s position in the Norwegian oil industry:

How much should the wings be cut? The size of the scissors wielded by Conservative premier Kåre Willoch (right) and Labour leader Gro Harlem Brundtland says a great deal about the main issue at stake in the big “oil compromise” over the Statoil reform. Well-known Norwegian cartoonist Finn Graff cut to the heart of the debate when the final compromise negotiations began between the centre-right coalition and Labour. Arbeiderbladet, 15 March 1984.

    • the company had become too large and dominant
    • it threatened the democratic order by becoming a “state within the state”
    • it mixed commerce with administration
    • it could create an unhealthy dependency in Norwegian industry
    • the amount of money at its disposal could lead to wasteful use of society’s resources.

Conservative objections to the Statoil system had become a key component in the party’s policies during the second half of the 1970s. However, the Labour Party’s confidence in the state oil company prevented these criticisms from going beyond the Storting (parliament) chamber.

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Published November 11, 2019   •   Updated January 2, 2020
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