Support for climate-oriented political parties in Norway is rising and anti-oil activists mounted a demonstration Thursday that shut down a major oil terminal. Recent surveys, however, indicate that a clear majority of Norwegians think their government should continue to allow more exploration for offshore oil and gas.
Fully 55 percent of those responding to the latest survey, conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), said “yes” to ongoing oil exporation. Another 32 percent said “no.” The rest were undecided, while the portion of those supporting oil exploration had a majority in all age groups.
That indicates there is no majority for recent calls, including from the United Nations, to halt further oil and gas exploration. That’s good news for the oil industry and seems to support the positions of Norway’s four biggest political parties (the ruling Conservatives plus the opposition Labour, Center and Progress), all of which oppose any end to issuance of more oil and gas exploration licenses.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservatives, who has claimed Norway should continue to search for oil and gas as long as it’s profitable, can thus claim that she has the people behind her. “But with the push we now have for new energy sources, the date for when (exploration) is no longer profitable will come closer,” Solberg told NRK. “At the same time, we must be aware that climate change will result in prices for fossil fuel that won’t be as profitable as before.”
Norway has become a wealthy country since oil was first discovered off its west coast in 1969. Much of the wealth has been stashed away in the country’s now-huge sovereign wealth fund known as the Oil Fund, which reported more enormous earnings this week.
Solberg was careful not to appear smug over the survey results, which were supported by those in a similar survey conducted by newspaper Klassekampen in July. It also showed a solid majority (59 percent) of those questioned saying “no” when asked whether Norway should stop searching for more oil. Only 23 percent wanted to halt oil and gas exploration, while 18 percent were unsure.
“We will cut emissions from oil production and contribute towards making all other alternative energy more reasonable in the future,” Solberg said. “When the cost of carbon becomes higher, more forms of alternative energy will emerge.”
Opposition to Norway’s oil industry, meanwhile, continues to rise. A group of anti-oil activists from the protest organization Extinction Rebellion launched another major demonstration early Thursday morning, blocking the main road leading into the large Sture oil terminal in Øygarden, northwest of Bergen. They also broke into the security zone around the terminal with a boat.
“We are in an emergency situation and felt we had to do something drastic,” Torleif Torgersen of Extinction Rebellion told NRK. He pointed to the UN’s recent climate report that branded climate change as a “code red” alarm and called on all oil-producing nations to stop searching for more oil, gas and coal. The International Energy Agency (IEA) had earlier called for the same, on the grounds the world already has all the oil it can use if the UN’s climate goals are to be met by 2050. Norway alone is believed to already have discovered reserves that can last until 2070.
The Sture terminal processes and stores oil from offshore fields that’s then loaded on to tanker ships for export abroad. It’s one of the most heavily trafficked shipping ports along Norway’s west coast.
Automobile traffic quickly backed up behind the demonstrators’ blockade Thursday morning, as commuters tried to get to work but were left sitting in their cars. By mid-afternoon, oil company Equinor was telling its employees not to even try getting to work because of the blockade. Those who could were asked to work from home.
“We of course respect the right to demonstrate as long as it’s done in a legal manner,” Equinor spokesman Eskil Eriksen told NRK, “but we’re not at all happy that a boat carrying demonstrators violated the security zone (around tanker operations).”
Extinction Rebellion is warning of more civil disobedience through the end of August, as its members draw attention to what they call a “catastrophic summer” full of fires, floods and deadly heatwaves. Their demonstrations coincide with the national election campaign now underway, where climate change is a major issue.
“The climate crisis must be tackled, now,” the group wrote on its website, “and Norway must make a choice: Shall we continue to choose oil, money, development and industry when it comes in conflict with life and the nature?” The group’s two demands are for Norway “to let the oil lie” and to opt for “life over growth.” Life and the nature, it claims, “always lose out to economic growth. We are wealthy enough now.”