In Brief

Why Norway is refusing to drill for oil worth billions

Government both praised and criticised over decision to withdraw support for oil exploration off Lofoten Islands

Oil Rig

Norway’s parliament has dealt a blow to the nation’s vast oil industry by withdrawing support for explorative drilling off the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic.

It has been estimated that there may be “one billion to three billion barrels of oil beneath the seabed off the Lofoten archipelago”, says The Independent.

Energy news site Oilprice reports that “environmentalists and smaller parties in Norway have been strongly opposed to any meddling with the beauty of the Lofoten, Vesteralen, and Senja islands”, considered one of the Scandinavian country’s natural wonders.

The largest party in Norway’s opposition coalition, the Labour Party, has now “decided to withdraw its support for oil exploration offshore... creating a solid majority in parliament to keep the area off limits for drilling”, Bloomberg reports.

The lawmakers said the decision reflected “a shift in support for the policy within the party”, says market analysis firm S&P Global

The move has been praised by environmentalists but is likely to put the Labour Party at odds with its historical supporters in the powerful oil industry unions.

“It takes courage and vision to stand up for systemic change. The permanent protection from oil drilling and exploration in Lofoten in Northern Norway should serve as an example for the rest of the world,” said a spokesperson for environmental protection organisation SeaLegacy.

Oil-rich Norway “currently pumps out over 1.6 million barrels of oil a day from its offshore operations”, reports The Independent.

However, the “dramatic shift” by the country’s biggest party indicates that “Western Europe’s biggest petroleum producer is falling out of love with oil”, adds Bloomberg reports.

That prediction will strike fear into many in Norway’s oil and gas sector, who see expanding offshore operations to the Lofoten region as “crucial for maintaining petroleum production levels in future”, says specialist news site Business Green.

Karl Eirik Schjott-Pedersen, head of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, said the sector was “surprised and disappointed” by the drilling ban. “It does not provide the predictability we depend on.”

Frode Alfheim, leader of Norway’s biggest oil union, Industry Energy, also attacked the decision.

“It creates imbalances in the policy discussions for an industry that’s dependent on a long-term perspective and we can’t accept that,” he told Bloomberg.

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