Norway's Election and Its Implications for Energy Policy

Ares Hernandez
November 5, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017

Ruling Coalition Track Record

Fig. 1: Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Norway's government is led by a coalition of Prime Minister Erna Solberg's Conservative Party and the Progress Party - with outside support from both the Liberal Party and Christian Democratic Party. [1] Erna Solberg can be seen in Fig. 1. Her government has had to deal with significant economic challenges, particularly the increased unemployment in Norway that resulted from falling oil prices. [2] A barrel of Brent crude oil cost $115 in Summer, 2014 and by January, 2016 broke $30 per barrel. [3] At the same time as this, the unemployment rate was 3.2% in the middle of 2014 and rose to 4.6% by around the beginning of 2016. [4] 50,000 of the jobs lost in Norway were oil industry jobs, which represented 20% of the jobs the industry had. [5] These problems that Solberg's government has had to face should come as no surprise, given that currently almost an eighth of Norway's economy is made up of oil and gas. [6] Its policies during its time in office included increasing government spending and implementation of tax cuts. [7] Her tax cuts have been $2.6 billion in total. [8]

Political Parties and Other Groups Opposed to Government Policies

The government has received criticism from Greenpeace over its oil policies. Greenpeace has argued that Norway's reliance on oil can backfire, a point all the more obvious given what the oil price drop has done to the economy in recent years. [5] Greenpeace has even gone as far as to sue the government over its allowing oil drilling in the Arctic, arguing that it will make it harder for the Paris Climate Accords to succeed in containing global temperatures. [6]

For a while the polls seemed to incicate that the incumbent government was doomed to be defeated by the opposition Labour Party in the 2017 elections. [9] Although the Labour Party itself is generally viewed as being favorable to oil, some of its potential coalition partners, notably the Green Party and the Socialist Left Party, have wanted restrictions on oil. [5] The Green Party, in particular, has gone as far as to call for the complete elimination of the oil and gas industry within 15 years and an immediate end to new exploration for oil and gas. [5]

Late Resurgence in Support for the Government

Oil prices then bounced back. [2] Brent crude oil was eventually back at $52 per barrel in August, 2017. [10] Not surprisingly, unemployment stopped rising and peaked at 5 percent and then went down to 4.3 percent by the time of the September 11, 2017 election, and consumer confidence levels also recovered. [9] Support for incumbent parties then increased, and opinion polls narrowed, giving the government a good shot at winning re-election. [5]

Election Results and Implications

Solberg and her allies ended up winning a majority in parliament, with 89 of 169 seats. [7] This was a big defeat for opposition political parties, especially bad for the Green Party, which ended up stuck with only a single seat. [7] Even with the government's biggest energy policy critics locked out of government by the election, the election does not represent an unmitigated mandate of support for oil. Even some of Solberg's allies, such as the Liberal Party and Christian Democratic Party, have said they do support some limits on Arctic oil exploration. [1] On the other hand, Solberg's third ally, the Progress Party, is notorious for its intense support for oil usage. [5] Overall, Norway's 2017 election results represent a victory for the status quo. It is not likely that Norway's oil and gas industry is going anywhere any time soon.

© Ares Hernandez. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] J. Henley, "Norway's Rightwing Coalition Claims Victory in General Election," The Guardian, 11 Sep 17.

[2] J. Dagenborg, "Norway PM Doubles Down on Tax Cuts in Bid For Second Term," Reuters, 14 Aug 17.

[3] P. Inman, "Oil Prices Soar to Highest For More Than Two Years After Output Cuts," The Guardian, 25 Sep 17.

[4] G Fouche and T Solsvik, "Norway's Economy Loses Its Shine," Reuters, 10 Aug 17.

[5] J. Henley, "Norway Goes to the Polls With the Future of Its Oil and Gas Industry in Play," The Guardian, 10 Sep 17.

[6] S. Sengupta, "Both Climate Leader and Oil Giant? A Norwegian Paradox," New York Times, 17 Jun 17.

[7] H. F. Libell, "Ruling Conservative-Led Bloc Wins Norways National Elections," New York Times, 11 Sep 17.

[8] S. Sleire, "Norway's Solberg Girds for Election Battle as Polls Tighten," Bloomberg, 7 Aug 17.

[9] H. Stolen and J. Dagenborg, "Norway's Right-Wing Government Claims Narrow Victory in Parliamentary Election," Independent, 12 Sep 17.

[10] J. Simon, "Oil Prices Up Amidst Higher Global Demand, Nigeria Instability," Reuters, 10 Aug 17.