Backing down on drilling off Norway’s Lofoten islands could also threaten the search for 16 billion barrels of oil and gas that lies beneath the Barents Sea, the country’s energy minister said.
The warning comes amid increasing signs that Labor, the nation’s biggest party and a long-time friend to the oil industry, is starting to give in to a push to shield the sensitive islands from exploration. Oil companies such as Equinor ASA have said access to the area, thought to hold about 1.3 billion barrels of oil and gas, is vital to prolonging Norway’s oil age.
“If the environmentalists win this one, the focus will quickly move to the Barents Sea,” Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Soviknes, who represents the Progress Party in the Conservative-led government, said in an interview Friday.
Drilling off Lofoten has been one of the most deadlocked issues for years as political bargaining maintained a ban on exploration. Should Labor flip on the issue, there will be a solid majority in parliament for closing off Lofoten permanently.
Compromising with smaller parties, successive governments have kept the area off limits while expanding exploration in the Barents Sea. Success in the under-explored Barents is seen as key to limiting a forecast drop in production from the middle of the next decade.
Published: April 1, 2023