Prime Minister of Norway Rejects Oil Exploration and Drilling in Lofoten Island

Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway, rejected a request by the country’s oil minister to begin oil drilling this year in the restricted regions of the environmentally fragile Lofoten Island.

During a recent debate at the parliament, the Prime Minister said that she cannot imagine an oil activity in the opened regions of Nordland VI in the fall of this year. She was talking about an oil exploration region that has been placed on hold for the last decade.

Last November, Ola Borten Moe, the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, said that he is in favor of opening up the area as early as this year while continuing a ban on other blocks that are disputed off the islands of Vesteraalen and Lofoten until no earlier than 2017.

The coalition of Stoltenberg is in a dilemma as to whether or not the restricted areas will be opened. According to KonKraft, an industry group, it may hold a maximum oil equivalent of 3.4 billion barrels.

Pressure is rising to open the region for oil exploration as the output of crude in the largest producer of western Europe has dropped by almost 50 percent in the last 10 years.

In 2011, the junior partners of the government were able to suspend a decision on beginning an impact study, an official step required to open new exploration blocks to the oil industry, until the elections in September are over. In the past week, the Labor Party of Stoltenberg renewed tensions inside the government by prompting that it would approve the start of an impact study following the election.

Leading parties of the opposition, which the polls say may obtain power in the month of September, have expressed that they want to open the regions as soon as they can.

The environmentally fragile regions are a habitat to one-of-a-kind cold water coral reefs, giving breeding areas for wildlife that range from fish to whales. It is also an area where several of the biggest seabird colonies of Europe gather. Borten Moe is a Center Party member, which is divided into the areas’ availability for exploration of oil.

By: Chris Termeer