Clear majority of Norwegians against oil drilling in country’s northwest, television report says

Frederic Hauge, leder i Bellona, foran seismikkskipet Geo Pacific, som startet å skyte utenfor Vesterålen på mandag.
(Foto: Tone Foss Aspevoll/Bellona)

Publish date: August 18, 2009

Written by: Ola Innset

Translated by: Charles Digges

A nationwide survey undertaken by NRK Norwegian Television showed that a clear majority of Norwegians are against oil drilling near the north western coastal areas of Lofoten and Vesterålen, which are rich in fisheries and exceptional natural beauty.

“David can slay Goliath,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge. “We have a powerful enemy in the oil industry and they use considerable resources to sway public opinion with them.”

In this Parliamentary election year for Norway, allowing or denying oil companies access to the oil reserves off the coasts of Lofoten and Vesterålen may trigger some of the most heated debates leading up to the autumn elections.

Bellona has long advocated closing off the Lofoten and Vesterålen basins for the oil industry as “long-term oil-free areas.” Yet, Norway’s oil reserves are also a source of the lion’s share of the country’s wealth, ensuring that the Scandinavian country has the highest standard of living of any country on earth. The divisions between those who are for drilling and against, therefore, may not, come election day, be so stark.

Results of poll ‘inspiring’
On Tuesday, NRK Television aired the results of a new nationwide survey showing that a strong majority of Norwegians opposed oil drilling near Lofoten and Vesterålen, with 47 percent against. Thirty-three percent were for the drilling, and 19 percent remained undecided. (Click here to see the report in Norwegian.)

“It’s very inspiring to see that the peoples’ movement that we are apart of is actually in the process of getting the upper hand in this fight,” said Hauge.

Hauge optimistic that politicians will take the hint
“We will remember that the oil industry is used to getting its way in this country and that they have employed an army of communications experts to win this battle for them,” said Hauge.

Hauge is nonetheless optimistic, but warns against claiming victory too early.

“It is far from certain that the political parties will relate to what most people think. Both the Progressives (FrP) and the Conservatives have worked actively for oil drilling, and Labour claims it has not yet decided,” he said.

The pressure must be kept up
“Our challenge must be to keep the pressure up such that the politicians understand that many voters have already figured it out,” said Hauge. “We must establish lasting protections for Lofoten and Vesterålen to protect the fishing and tourist industries – and to maintain a shred of international climate credibility.”

Charles Digges contributed to this report.