A step closer to opening Lofoten/Vesterålen
The results of Norway’s general election clearly indicate that the Socialist Left and Liberals failed to win support for rejecting petroleum activity off the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands. This conclusion has been drawn by Per Terje Vold, chief executive of the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF), after the election to the Storting (parliament) on September 14.
Parties who take a positive view of opening further areas of the Norwegian continental shelf off northern Norway to petroleum operations made clear progress in this poll. On the other hand, the political groupings who want to protect the waters off Lofoten and Vesterålen from such activity did poorly. “Oil and gas operations off Lofoten and Vesterålen will be highly significant for further development of our welfare state and creating new economic progress in the region,” says Mr Vold. “We have taken particular note of the fact that voters in northern Norway have not supported calls for permanent conservation of these waters.”
Socialist Left leader Kristin Halvorsen has said that protecting Lofoten and Vesterålen against petroleum activity was the most important issue for her party, which sits in the ruling coalition. During the election campaign, she and other government ministers from the left-wing party visited Lofoten on a number of occasions. However, both the Socialist Left and the Liberal party – which also opposes opening these waters – lost support in Lofoten, Vesterålen and the rest of northern Norway. “Ms Halvorsen said that a strong Socialist Left would be signal from the voters,” observes Mr Vold. “The electorate has now spoken, and wants to keep the door to the future open.”
The oil and gas industry currently contributes a third of the Norwegian government’s income and helps to safeguard schools, nursery places, health care and other welfare benefits for all. “While the rest of the world has been experiencing a deep economic crisis, revenues from the petroleum sector have ensured that we’ve avoided the worst of the downturn,” says Mr Vold. “Oil and gas will continue to make a strong contribution to value creation and welfare provision nationwide.”
Despite changes in their composition over the years, Norway’s Storting representatives and governments have taken the petroleum industry’s long time frame seriously. “The authorities must now speed up their work on the integrated management plan for offshore operations in the far north,” says Mr Vold.
“It’s crucial that we get this plan in place in 2010, so that the country can continue to benefit from the revenues generated by the oil sector. “Wise political choices and its own commitment have made the petroleum business Norway’s most important and forward-looking knowledge industry. “We’re ready to continue developing the good work which has been done over 40 years, and want a positive collaboration with those who will be continuing to govern this country for the next four years.”
Source: Olf.no (Norwegian Oil Industry Association)