Norway’s parliament withdrew its support for explorative drilling off the Lofoten islands in the Arctic, considered to be a natural wonder. This is a huge blow to the county’s oil industry, currently pumping over 1.6 million barrels of oil a day from its offshore operations.
The move by the opposition Labour party created a large parliamentary majority against exploration in the sensitive offshore area showing the growing strength against the polluting fossil fuel industry, regardless of oil’s major role in their economy.
State controlled Equinor ASA is Norway’s largest oil producer believes access to Lofoten’s oil supplies to be crucial to maintain production levels. The Lofoten archipelago is estimated to have 1 to 3 billion barrels of oil beneath the seabed but the area has been kept off limits for years by Norway’s coalition government.
“The whole industry is surprised and disappointed,” Karl Eirik Schjott- Pedersen, head of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association told Bloomberg. “It does not provide the predictability we depend on.”
Labour leader, Jonas Gahr Store announced the party’s opposition, showing a split in the party as leadership tries to support the environmental concerns of the population as well as oil workers unions, which have been major backers of the party.
Mr Store said his party would continue to support the oil industry, but has also said he wants oil companies to commit to a deadline for making all operations emissions free.
Staunch ally of Labour and Norway’s biggest oil union, Industry Energy, has criticized the party’s new stance on drilling in Lofoten, coming less than two years after an internal party concession on the issue.
“It creates imbalances in the policy discussions for an industry that’s dependent on a long-term perspective and we can’t accept that. There’s probably a lot of people in the industry who are wondering what Labour actually stands for,” Frode Alfheim, union’s leader, told the Sydney Morning Herald
This just days after Norway’s government approval last Friday for its $1 trillion (£760bn) oil fund – the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, to invest in renewable energy projects not listed on stock markets. Billions are expected to be spent on wind and solar power projects.
This being the most recent sign of wealth from fossil fuels being redirected to future profits in renewable energy. Numerous industries and countries have started divestment from fossil fuel, alluding to future risks to their business and economic models.
Norway’s oil fund confirmed last month it will not be investing in 134 companies exploring for oil and gas but would retain stakes in oil firms which have renewable energy divisions, including BP and Shell.
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