Oil a crucial concern for Norway voters

NORWAY (REUTERS) - Norway is gearing up for a general election on Sept 11, and the future of the oil industry is emerging as a crucial concern for voters.

Nationwide polls show it's a close race, with the current centre-right Conservatives set to battle it out against the Labour party.

But there could be an unlikely kingmaker.

"A crucial factor in this election will be the Green Party who could be in a position to decide who gets to be Prime Minister," said Reuters reporter Gwladys Fouche. "The Green Party wants to phase out oil production within 15 years and they want to stop oil exploration immediately. So this would mean that industries like this one would have a very bleak future."

Thousands of local jobs were wiped out here when crude prices fell 75 per cent from June 2014 to January 2016.

Business confidence in the region fell for seven out of eight quarters, but it has since picked up and the economy grew more than expected in the first half of 2017 - favouring the governing centre-right.

Labour, though, says not enough is being done to address lingering economic problems.

The smaller Green party is on the rise.

Although there is little chance of it being able to call time on Norway's number one industry, it could seek to force through compromises to trim the sector's ambitions.

Luteran vicar Egil Ellingsen said, "This is what so many people live off. They, I mean in the kindergarten, in the neighbours, everywhere you meet people who live out of oil. And so, if you were just to close down this industry, what are we supposed to live off? I think that is a big question for many."

As alternatives, the Green Party suggests offshore wind, forestry and fisheries.

Little consolation for the country's 180,000 employees who depend upon the sector for their livelihood.