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Norway plans record 2010 carbon capture spending

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway plans to raise investments in capturing and storing greenhouse gases in 2010 to a record of almost 3.5 billion crowns ($621 million) to help fight climate change, Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg once said Norway wanted to lead international efforts to develop carbon capture, likening it to the 1960s U.S.-Soviet race to the Moon. But timetables for Norway’s major projects have slipped.

“We propose to spend almost 3.5 billion crowns in 2010 on this area,” Halvorsen told parliament in presenting the center-left government’s 2010 budget. “This is an increase of almost 1.6 billion crowns compared to the 2009 budget.”

“Technology for handling carbon dioxide will be one of the most important tools in the fight against global warming,” she said.

Stoltenberg said in early 2007 Norway would give priority to carbon capture as a “Moon landing,” likening a breakthrough to the 1960 U.S. Apollo landing on the Moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. The Apollo programme cost the United States more than $100 billion.

Halvorsen said Norway would contribute to technology for capture, transport and storage of carbon dioxide, the main gas released by burning fossil fuels. Since 1986, Norway has buried carbon dioxide offshore at the Sleipner gas field.

Construction work on a center for capture of carbon dioxide at Mongstad on the west coast was under way, as well as work on full-scale capture of carbon dioxide, she said.

COMPETITION

“This is a lot of money but we know a lot will be required,” Asbjoern Torvanger of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo said of the 2010 spending.

“I get the impression that things have not moved forward as fast as the government would have liked,” he said.

He said Norway faced competition from projects in countries such as the United States and Britain.

Halvorsen said Norway, the world’s number six oil exporter, would also raise investments in renewable energies. A fund for developing renewable energy and energy efficiency would get a new 5 billion crowns, raising the total to 25 billion.

Stoltenberg’s government has offered to toughen national cuts in greenhouse gases to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, from a planned 30 percent, to help a new U.N. climate pact due to be agreed in December in Copenhagen.

Norway also plans to make the nation “carbon neutral” by 2030, by when any greenhouse gas emissions will be offset by measures to soak up greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere, such as by planting forests.

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