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In a major policy shift during the weekend, Norway’s Labor Party—a long-time ally of the oil industry and the biggest party that is currently in opposition—said it would no longer support opening up the Lofoten archipelago to oil drilling, taking Norway a step closer to a permanent drilling ban in the area.
The scenic Lofoten archipelago is currently off limits for oil drilling thanks to years of political compromises. The ruling Conservative Party, as well as Labor until very recently, supported in principle the launch of feasibility studies for potential development, but didn’t have the support from their junior partners when in power.
Now with the Labor Party withdrawing its support to potential oil development, the Lofoten area will likely remain off-limits for oil exploration, as the biggest party joins the smaller parties in Norway’s Parliament who don’t want to risk damaging the pristine archipelago either.
Environmentalists and smaller parties in Norway have been strongly opposed to any meddling with the beauty of the Lofoten, Vesterålen, and Senja islands.
“It takes courage and vision to stand up for systemic change. The permanent protection from oil drilling and exploration in Lofoten in Northern Norway should serve as an example for the rest of the world,” environmental protection organization SeaLegacy said, commenting on the Labor Party’s decision.
The major shift in position from the biggest party and long-time oil industry supporter, Labor, likely means that the area will never be tapped.
Estimates have put the potential oil resources underneath the picturesque islands at between 1.3 billion and 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent, estimated to be worth US$60-65 billion.
The shift in the Labor Party’s position on Lofoten drilling, however, could make the oil industry nervous that further shifts in political support for oil drilling could come in the future.
According to Bloomberg, the oil drilling debate could now move to whether more areas in the Arctic Barents Sea should be open to oil drilling and development.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.