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Five Public Opinion Headaches For Alberta Oil Execs

Polling from Calgary's own corner offices reveals pipeline protest 'not just for West Coast hippies anymore.'

By Emma Gilchrist 7 Feb 2015 | Desmog Canada

Emma Gilchrist is executive director of Desmog Canada.

Alberta Oil magazine just published its national survey on energy literacy, the culmination of 1,396 online interviews of a representative sample of Canadians conducted by Leger.

The results are particularly interesting coming from Alberta Oil, a magazine destined for the desks of the energy sector's senior executives and decision-makers.

Summing up the survey's findings, Alberta Oil editors wrote that opposition to energy projects is ''not just for West Coast hippies anymore.''

Indeed. There are quite a few nuggets in the survey's findings that are probably causing a headache or two in Calgary's corner offices this week. We round up the top five.

1. Trans Mountain vs. Northern Gateway

Opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline is just as serious as opposition to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline -- if not more so, according to the survey.

What's more, the more highly educated citizens are, the less likely they are to support Trans Mountain or Northern Gateway. Perhaps the anti-pipeline crowd isn't all unemployed hippies after all?

2. Trust issues

Fewer than one in 10 post-secondary graduates find oil and gas industry associations credible and trustworthy when it comes to carbon emissions.

That shouldn't come as a huge surprise given industry associations like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have fought new greenhouse gas regulations and successfully lobbied to weaken Canada's environmental laws.

3. Define 'essential'

Young people aren't sold on the future of the energy industry. Just 16.5 per cent of people aged 18 to 34 described it as ''essential,'' compared to 30.3 per cent overall. What's more, only 9.3 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 described the oilsands as ''essential'' compared to 18 per cent of the broader population.

4. Quebec's anti-pipeline surprise

While British Columbia has thus far been the focal point of Canada's pipeline debate, the strongest opposition to the oil and gas sector is actually in Quebec.

That's going to have big ramifications for the proposed Energy East pipeline that would theoretically transport bitumen across that province. When asked to think of the oil and gas sector in Canada and select words that come to mind, 51 per cent of Quebecers came up with ''environmental disaster.''

Time for Trans Canada's public relations professionals to pop an Advil.

582px version of Map.jpg
Screencap of Alberta Oil magazine's national survey on energy literacy.

5. Literacy… in what language?

The editors at Alberta Oil do some hand-wringing about Canadians' lack of “energy literacy”… although literacy in this case appears to be defined as the ability to answer somewhat obscure pro-industry questions.

Take the multiple choice question on how much more carbon intensive the oil produced from Alberta's oilsands is than the average grade of U.S. crude on a well-to-wheels basis. Only 5.6 per cent of respondents chose correctly. Hold on… hasn't there been a raging debate going on for the past few years on oilsands' emissions intensity?

While Alberta Oil would like you to think the ''correct'' answer to that question is six per cent, a comparison of oilsands emissions intensities (well-to-wheels) from seven data sources to the 2005 U.S. baseline showed that oilsands emissions range from eight to 37 per cent higher than the baseline. Really, the best answer would probably be that there's a huge amount of variation and disagreement on oilsands emissions intensity.

The good news is very few Canadians can spew out the precise answers industry wants to hear. Oil execs probably aren't stoked that their multi-million dollar public relations campaigning appear to be falling on deaf ears.  [Tyee]

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