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A «mission» for floating offshore wind?

A new economy – how moon landing inspires to change capitalism
GREEN CHANGE / Norway has an inability to get out of oil dependence.


The method and recipe in Mariana Mazzucatos Book A new economy # has hit a nerve in Norwegian political discourse. Above all, of the think tank Manifesto, which has found the key to the oil fund's bank vault: the recipe for spending large public funds on the most important societal challenges embodied in the concept of «missions». Far more sophisticated than the Progress Party's barbecues, but captivatingly similar to Stoltenberg's moon landing.

Mazzucato argues well and broadly for a "mission" -oriented approach to economic policy. This is based on public funding, or in our case, by scooping up the Oil Fund. A policy closely linked to private industry and business – à la NASA and Kennedy's moon landing. It is the goal, not the way forward, that is the concept. The starting point is that the current market economy model does not give sufficient results – neither in the form of economic growth nor for more of a circular economy zero-emission society.

The diagnosis is good. And when we also know that last year's Norwegian trade balance went in the red for the first time since 2008, after exports fell by NOK 462 billion in twelve years, good advice is expensive.

We need new perspectives, ideas and thoughts that break with the thinking of mainstream economists where the state sells itself into large companies and releases the markets.


Mazzucato is able to convey complex messages in a talk-show-worthy way. In contrast to masculine powerpoint-driven monotonous voices, Mazzucato is vividly communicative with an Englishman who does not try to hide the singing Italian undertone while smiling, laughing, gesturing – in an often unstructured way, but who always lands on her feet.

Mazzucato is one of the world's most sought after speakers, according to the think tank Manifest had planned when they had booked the main room in Chateau Neuf. The pandemic put an end to the visit to Oslo, and the lecture was instead broadcast live on Facebook on March 9, to the delight of us all. Manifests Mazzucato report The green giant – a new industrial strategy for Norway is an attempt to mission (ere) the Norwegian economy.


But Manifest overlooks that government money and investments are of little value without market demand. Here, the EU is the most important driving force – both because their Green Give is our most important market, but also because the EU regulates the market – as Mazzucato asks. But it does not mention the Manifesto, which we would rather die than mention the EU, thus reducing the relevance of the report.

Mongstad Oil Refinery

There are three phenomena in particular in Mazzucato's book that strike us in Norway in the middle of the diaphragm.

First because Norway had its failed lunar landing: the carbon capture and storage facility at the time Statoil's oil refinery and test facility at Mongstad. A crash of dimensions, much because Statoil itself never wanted the project, and it all became a piece in a political game between the governing parties AP and SV – where both were to emerge as winners. The test facility, on the other hand, exists and does an important job, but is not an engine in the Norwegian economy, as the government envisioned at the time, and as Mazzucato's theory suggests. Because with the state paying, subcontractors could write a bill with a fork. Not only was Mongstad equipped with the world's most expensive oak parquet, but the project blew up all budgets and helped increase the cost level, making the technology more expensive instead of cheaper.

The world's largest consulting company says that the Oslo office has the largest turnover in the whole
Europe. A country with 5,5 million people spends more consulting money than
countries with 50, 60 or 80 million inhabitants.

Too bad Mazzucato did not come to Norway before she wrote the book – where she consistently glorifies NASA's lunar landing and emphasizes flexibility and freedom "which allowed directors to circumvent regular hiring procedures, award large R&D contracts without competition, dispose of federal grants freely". Here, Mazzucato appears as a naive thought – and shows how dangerous state-controlled processes can be.

Childized public sector

The other thing that makes the book particularly relevant here at home is our inability to get out of the oil addiction. With sky-high profit margins, the wisest minds and the biggest investors will never be able to leave the petroleum sector in favor of renewable solutions such as floating offshore wind with far lower earnings. The director of Eksportkreditt, Ivar Slegesol, recently wrote about the consequences of the lack of Norwegian framework conditions for the offshore wind industry. This has led us today to be far behind the other countries in the North Sea area. Building a new industry "on the shoulders of the oil industry" is an irrelevant expression that our political landscape has been seduced into. The government should rather base a larger Mazzucato-style "mission" for offshore wind in a forthcoming report to the Storting on Long-term value creation from Norwegian energy resources. There are many indications that the word "shoulders" will continue to dominate.

Last but not least, the innovative concept of "infinatalized government". Here we have a great time because Mazzucato shows how the madness is put into a system: We make the public sector childish by spending enormous resources on consultants who investigate and recommend. Instead of building up our own competence, we pay to give it away. The proof is that the world's largest consulting company, PWC, can tell that the Oslo office has the largest turnover in all of Europe. A country with 5,5 million people spends more consulting money than a country with 50, 60 or 80 million inhabitants. Why? Because our politicians and administration lack leadership, are wary of conflict and have reluctance to make decisions.

It is not a failed moon landing the Norwegian economy needs. It is a lunar rocket, with enough power and intensity to shoot us out of the oil age.

Paal Frisvold
Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.

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