Local weather change in focus of elections at oil big Norway | World information
STAVANGER, Norway (Reuters) – Climate change has emerged as a key issue for Norwegian voters in the general election September 12-13, no more than in the country’s oil industry capital, Stavanger, which is poised for a low-carbon future.
Norway emitted about 13.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from fossil fuel production in 2020, but emissions from its oil and gas used abroad were 30 times higher at more than 400 million tonnes, said Robbie Andrew, senior researcher at Oslo Climate Thinking tank CICERO.
Western Europe’s largest oil producer is facing pressure from environmental groups to stop all new oil and gas projects in order to keep climate change in check.
According to surveys, the opposition Labor Party and its allies, including the Socialist Left, are to replace the ruling coalition of the conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Labor supports continued oil production while the Socialist Left opposes it.
Political cartoons about world leaders
Since the publication of a report by the United Nations https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/un-sounds-clarion-call-over-irreversible-climate-impacts-by-humans-2021-08-09 on 8. 9 parties that prioritize climate change, such as the Greens and the Socialist Left, have become increasingly popular in polls. Among the Greens, the membership of their party rose by 25%.
The better the green parties do in the elections, the more likely they will be able to impose restrictions on oil companies, such as restricting where they can look for new fields.
Still, it will be a major challenge to give time – as the Greens want – for a sector that accounts for 42% of national exports and employs around 160,000 people.
For a graphic to support the left and right wings in the Norwegian Parliament:
Nowhere is the focus on climate change policy as high as in Stavanger, a windswept town on the west coast in the middle of fjords, where Equinor and other oil companies are based.
It is no longer as usual here.
“There is massive acceptance that we need to change, that we need to start planning life after the oil,” said Svein Kvernstuen, 49, Beyonder CEO. The company makes fast-charging battery cells, made with renewable energy and sawdust, that can be used to power heavy machinery or stabilize power grids.
Like his father, Kvernstuen once worked on offshore platforms and later at an oil services company before founding Beyonder in 2016.
He wants every new government to focus on education to make sure it can hire the skilled workers for the pilot plant he’s building for 700 million kroner ($ 79 million).
Finding people with the right skills is a big challenge and the company has to recruit some people from abroad, mostly from Asia.
NorSea, an operator of supply ports for offshore oil and gas platforms, aims to develop the world’s largest site for building foundations for floating offshore wind turbines. Norway has opened offshore areas for wind farms and plans to launch the first tenders next year.
Chief Executive John Stangeland wants simpler bureaucratic procedures and says it could take up to a decade for the first floating wind turbines to spin on the Norwegian continental shelf.
“My fear is that we are moving too slowly,” said the 57-year-old.
The Greens, who want to end oil exploration and production by 2035 immediately, expect their best election result of all time thanks to young and urban voters – a trend that can be observed elsewhere in Europe, such as Germany.
“We are assuming that we will get eight to ten MEPs in Parliament, compared to one now,” said Ulrikke Torgersen, 24, a Green candidate in Rogaland in the Stavanger region. The Norwegian Parliament has 169 seats.
The two top parties Labor and the Conservatives want to use the knowledge of the industry to create green jobs and negotiate the energy transition without leaving people behind.
Labor has ruled out any alliance with the Greens, who say they will only support a government that immediately ends oil exploration and production by 2035. This stance could be put to the test after the elections if Labor cannot form a majority without the Greens.
“The most important thing we need to do for the people who work in the oil and gas industry is to accelerate the pace of building more renewable energy industries so they have jobs to go to,” said Hadia Tajik , Vice-Chair of Labor and a parliamentary candidate for Rogaland.
Labor backed the Conservative government’s June White Paper on Energy, which relies on hydrogen and offshore wind for Norway’s energy transition, while allowing oil and gas companies to promote it through 2050 and beyond.
“We want the oil and gas industry to know that there will be no surprising political changes with Labor and that the changes will be discussed with the sector itself,” Tajik said.
That is welcomed by the oil workers, who fear that the Greens might press the new government into policies that restrict oil activities but do little to reduce global production and benefit other oil producers like Russia and Saudi Arabia.
“Our biggest concern is that the Greens might get their fantasies through,” said Kai Morten Anda, vice chairman of Safe, one of the unions that represents the oil workers.
Meanwhile, the industry continues to pump out the oil, with oil companies planning to approve about 50 new projects in 2021 and 2022, the Norwegian Oil Regulatory Authority said, which amounts to around $ 43 billion in investments.
This is in contrast to what other Nordic countries are doing. Denmark, for example, is trying to forge an international alliance of countries willing to set a date for phasing out oil production.
For a graph on Norwegian oil production 1971-2025:
“Oil is a dying business. In the last few years we’ve had big ups and downs, many have been laid off. That doesn’t appeal to me,” says Kim Erling Stangeland (not related to John Stangeland), 24, who studied business administration and now works in Part time as a saleswoman.
($ 1 = 8.8156 Norwegian crowns)
(Adaptation by Gwladys Fouche and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.