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Korpfjell adds fuel to the fire

For Norwegian climate campaigners and oil sceptics, Statoil’s failure to find oil at the Korpfjell prospect in the Barents Sea could not have come at a better time, writes Beate Schjolberg.

With just over a week until a general election, one of the main debates is whether Norway should wind down oil and gas production to prepare for a greener future.

This week, five Nobel Peace Prize laureates joined in an appeal to Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her Labour challenger Jonas Gahr Store to end petroleum production, and the Korpfjell failure gave a new argument to those who claim drilling in the north is a waste of money.

Norway’s three large parties still want to extend the country's petroleum age for as long as possible to secure cash for future generations, but they need support from small parties that have a strong climate agenda.

Any government after the 11 September general election will come under pressure to put restrictions on new exploration.

The pressure would be strongest on a Labour-led government, which would have to rely on two or three parties that all want to see the petroleum industry replaced by more climate-friendly jobs.

The sitting Conservative-led coalition would have to renew its agreement with the Liberals, which wants to scrap a tax break that has allowed loss-making oil companies to push 78% of exploration costs over to the state.

The tax system has resulted in discoveries that will return the state’s expenses several times over once they come on stream. That does not seem to worry the small, climate-friendly parties. They will not have to make unpopular budget cuts needed to make up for lost oil income.