No matter what you think about fossil fuels, you have to admire Norway’s management of their gas and oil fuels. Unlike the squandering of oil fortunes in countries like Venezuela and Nigeria, Norway has used many of their oil revenues to prop up their welfare state. Since the 1960s, oil has allowed Norway to provide one of the highest standards of living in the world for its citizens. This Scandinavian country has been able to keep its currency, avoid joining OPEC, and maintain steady economic growth. The results aren’t perfect—Norwegians deal with a steep cost of living, hence their usual top ranking in The Economist “Big Mac Index.” And finally, there are environmental consequences stemming from Norway’s petroleum industry. So pay attention: Norway will be an interesting laboratory for carbon capture and storage, or CCS. CCS is a largely untested concept which, depending on your point of view, is absolutely genius or a total scam. It works like this: the carbon that is a byproduct of fossil fuel extraction is separated during the refining and processing of natural gas, oil, or coal. The condensed carbon is then moved, most likely by pipeline, to either 1) geologic formations such as abandoned coal mines or deep fissures that could store the carbon, or 2), sent deep to the ocean where it “safely” sits for centuries without disturbing oceanic life. There are a few issues involved. The process requires a lot of energy, which means you are still spitting out emissions in the air—and in the end, this is just not a tested technology. Norway’s most polluting oil refinery—actually, the nation’s most polluting site, period—will be a test case for CCS. By 2011, a small pilot project will start extracting 100,000 tons of carbon annually and will send it, well, hopefully not under one of the nation’s gorgeous fjords. Meanwhile, the Norwegian government, the beneficiary of the oil industry’s largess, will bankroll the project. The debate in Norway over this is hot. Greenpeace (of course) says this is nuts and a wash. But a leading Norwegian environmental group, Belona, says this is the way to go for now until alternative fuels are proven scalable and viable. Could this work in the US? We have the pipeline infrastructure, and by some accounts there is enough space in American underground geologic formations that could store 400 to 500 years’ worth of carbon. Let’s go on a Norwegian cruise a few years from now and find out.