A new survey shows that only 23 percent of Norwegians want their government to stop doling out offshore oil and gas exploration licenses in Norway’s portion of the North, Norwegian and Barents seas. That’s much less than the 34 percent of Norwegians who didn’t want to search for more oil and gas two years ago.
The survey, conducted by research bureau Sentio for newspaper Klassekampen, also showed 59 percent in favour of ongoing oil and gas exploration. The remaining 18 percent were unsure.
The portion of those answering “no” when asked in 2019 whether Norway should stop searching for more oil and gas was the same, but the far fewer think oil and gas exploration should be halted. The numbers of those undecided expanded dramatically, from 7 percent in 2019 to the 18 percent now.
All four of Norway’s biggest political parties on both the right (the Conservatives and Progress Party) and the left (Labour and the Center Party) also support ongoing exploration and production of oil and gas. Oil policy remains, however, the most divisive issue on the left side: Labour and Center need the support of at least the Socialist Left party (SV) or both the Reds and the Greens to form a majority in Parliament. All three parties are adamantly opposed to ongoing oil exploration.
There conservative side is also divided on the issue, with the Liberal Party opposed to more exploration. The Christian Democrats are wavering, while most all the parties’ youth organizations on both the right and the left want to halt more expansion of Norway’s oil industry.
Oil lobby ‘lies’
They were all encourged by a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that claimed the world can’t search for more fossil fuels if it hopes to meet the UN’s climate goal of only 1.5 degrees. The IEA had earlier supported Norway’s oil industry, and the sudden change in attitude poses a new challenge for Norwegian officials who’ve relied on the IEA’s acceptance of its offshore activity. Opponents of more oil exploration had hoped the IEA’s conclusion would exert more influence in Norway, and the new survey left them disappointed.
Arild Hermstad, a Member of Parliament for the Greens Party, told Klassekampen that its survey at least showed that a fourth of Norway’s population opposes Norway’s oil policy or, as he put it, “can see through the lies the oil lobby tells that we can still keep looking for oil and gas.” SV’s MP Kari Elisabeth Kaski was less harsh, noting that she wasn’t surprised by Klassekampen’s survey “given how strong the oil industry is in Norway, how important it has been historically and what a huge role it plays in Norwegian public life.” She remains convinced that most Norwegians want to cut carbon emissions, and “that we just have to make them realize that doing so means we have to do something about our oil policy.”
Marie Sneve Martinussen, deputy leader of the Reds Party, added that she understands how many people are worried about their jobs and the economy if oil exploration is halted. Not only does the oil industry directly employ tens of thousands of people in Norway, so do the offshore and oil supply industries. “We have to show that restructuring (of the economy) doesn’t mean we’ll be restructuring towards unemployment,” Martinussen told Klassekampen.
Big parties relieved
The Labour and Center parties were relieved by the survey, with the pro-oil Center leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum claiming once again that halting production in Norway won’t have much effect on climate change: “It will just continue other places,” he told Klassekampen. He claims it’s more important to simply make sure Norway’s oil industry adheres to climate demands.
Labour’s deputy leader Bjørnar Skjæran was pleased by the support for oil exploration in Norway: “We want to develop the oil and gas industry, not shut it down,” he told Klassekampen. “It’s an industry that has meant and still means a lot for income to society, but also has the competence to succeed in the green shift.”