The shareholder motion to disinvest was supported by several Swedish pension funds. It sent other investors in the oil-sands project, including Denmark's Danske Bank, scrambling to consult ethical investment advisers.
"This puts the government in a very strange position now," says Martin Norman, a campaign manager for Greenpeace Nordic.
"On the one hand, they're working very hard to get global commitment to climate-change targets at the Copenhagen climate negotiations this fall. But on the other hand, they have nothing to say about their company's activity in the tar sands."
Not in Norway's backyard?
Like its Nordic neighbors, Norway has long been a proponent of high environmental-protection standards. The country also shares an open electricity market with Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, 50 percent of which is renewable energy, mainly hydroelectric power.
StatoilHydro counters criticism of its tar-sands investment by pointing to its growing portfolio of wind and wave energy projects and its strong environmental record for oil drilling in the North Sea.
"The world needs more energy and less CO2 emissions," says Ola Morten Aanested, a spokesman for StatoilHydro in Norway. "Our operations in the North Sea are extremely CO2-efficient compared to other oil producers around the world, and that's something we can take with us to Canada."