Nearly three decades of petroleum policy in Britain and Norway have produced three modes of offshore state intervention: minimal, regulatory, and participatory. In the earliest years of offshore activity, state officials from both countries implemented a minimal regulatory structure that was transformed in the early 1970s into an extensive system of government control and state participation. But in less than ten years, participatory intervention had peaked as a strategy of state governance. In Britain it gave way to a strong system of regulation without state ownership of offshore ventures; in Norway it wavered but remained in place. What accounts for this variance in strategy of state intervention?
The decision by British and Norwegian state officials to intervene in the petroleum sector, and subsequent decisions regarding the extent of their intervention, were motivated by several factors. Our close examination of the cases in the previous chapters illuminates three particularly important causal factors: precedent, pressure groups, and state bargaining strength. We take a general look at each of these factors before discussing their impact on petroleum policy in the two countries.
Officials in policy-making positions, when faced with a decision involving state intervention, are often heavily influenced by precedent, or what Ikenberry calls the "shadow of the past." 1Precedent is particularly important when new problems arise, as they did in Britain and Norway when the oil companies became interested in the North Sea. In situations where information is scarce and time is relatively short, it is natural for officials to adopt goals, establish institutions,