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Framing the issue

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Oil exploration in the Norwegian Sea

Europe’s largest oil producer, Norway, has made great efforts to limit the environmental impact of hydrocarbon production. As such, areas of the Norwegian continental shelf have been excluded from oil exploration, including the Lofoten Islands and Vesteralen archipelago, which are renowned for outstanding natural beauty and high levels of biodiversity.

However, the area may contain up to 3.4bn barrels of oil, and potential oil exploration is creating a heated debate within the country. Proponents argue that Norway has to open up oil-rich protected areas to sustain high production levels, while opponents have raised strong concerns, highlighting the vital role of the Lofoten and Vesteralen for Norway’s fishing industry. Following parliamentary elections on 9 September 2013, it is expected that Norway’s next government will be led by the conservative party Hoyre, which is in favour of conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on oil exploration in the protected areas. However, the party has to form a coalition to get a parliamentary majority, and two smaller potential coalition partners remain heavily opposed.

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