OSLO, Jan 7 (Reuters) – The low price of crude could make it more likely that oil firms will be allowed to explore in Norway's Lofoten region after 2017, which is currently off-limits due to environmental concerns, the country's energy minister said on Thursday.
"The resources offshore Lofoten and Vesteraalen must at some point come into play, and it is clear that this will be more relevant because of the low oil prices and the situation we now see in the industry," Petroleum and Energy Minister Tord Lien told Reuters on the sidelines of a business conference.
The shallow waters off Lofoten are expected to hold large reserves that can be produced at a lower cost than the more expensive areas currently being explored further north on Norway's continental shelf.
When the right-wing minority government of the Conservatives and the populist Progress Party came into power in 2013 however, it agreed with two smaller support parties not to open several sensitive areas to oil and gas exploration, including Lofoten.
The next general election is due in September of next year.
"The government is in government exactly because of the cooperation deal with the Liberals and the Christian Democrats. But there is no doubt that this will become a very important theme for the Progress Party towards 2017, and then the Conservatives have to respond for their part," said Lien, who represents Progress.
(Reporting by Joachim Dagenborg, writing by Stine Jacobsen, editing by Terje Solsvik)
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