Fossil Economy Becomes Central Issue in Norwegian Election
An increasingly close campaign leading up to Norway’s national election September 11 could turn in part on the future of the country’s oil exploration and production activities and the job prospects people can expect in a post-carbon economy.
Both the governing Conservative bloc and the opposition Labour coalition say they’ll support the fossil industry if they form Norway’s next government. But in a scenario reminiscent of the cliffhanger election result in British Columbia earlier this year, Reuters is pointing to the much smaller Green party as the potential kingmaker in a split vote, with the potential to “stop oil exploration and phase out production within 15 years”.
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The Greens have very slim prospects of “being able to call time on Norway’s number one industry, which all major parties back to the hilt, accounts for half of national exports, and employs over 180,000 people,” writes Oslo Bureau Chief Gwladys Fouché.
“But they have been gradually gathering support over the past four years and are polling at about 5% of the vote, underlining changes in Norwegian society and divisions over the future of oil,” she notes. “Should they hold the balance of power, they could seek to force compromises to trim the oil industry’s ambitions, with environmentalists in recent months focusing on the need to limit oil companies’ expansion in the Arctic.”
Reuters notes that Norway’s fossil sector “is still in recovery mode after thousands of local jobs were lost when crude prices crashed,” and Fouché centres much of her report in the oil capital of Stavanger, where people are skeptical of jobs without oil.
“If you were to just close down this industry, what are we supposed to live off? This is a big question for many,” said local Lutheran pastor Egil Ellingsen. When Ellingsen asked that question at a recent election debate that drew 800 people, the area’s Green candidate cited offshore wind, forestry, and fisheries as sectors where the jobs might materialize.
At the oil port of Dusavik, managing director Rune Veenstra fretted that the campaign was already creating uncertainty for the industry. “If we can’t have a clear direction, it is no good for anyone,” he said.
According to Reuters, though, “the main parties say they will not give ground to the Greens or any other group seeking to curb Norway’s oil sector, which is pivotal to a national economy that is turning a corner after a couple of slow years.”