The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) believes it has the support of Canadians. CAPP President David Collyer told the Financial Post that “it is important not to construe the very strong and vocal opposition from environmental activists” as being representative of overall public sentiment. Recent poll numbers show that he may be out of touch with reality, since at least half of Canadians are opposed to many of the key projects planned by the oil industry.
A recent Forum Research poll quoted by the Financial Post shows that the environmental impacts of proposed oil sands and pipeline projects are significant concerns for Canadians. The responses to some of the questions posed was as follows:
- Do you agree that oil from the Alberta oil sands is more ethical than oil from the Middle East?
- 60% agree
- 22% disagree
- 18% don’t know
- Are you in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline which would carry crude oil from the Alberta oil sands to Houston, Texas?
- 38% in favor
- 49% opposed
- 13% don’t know
- Are you favor of a second pipeline, the Northern Gateway pipeline which would carry crude oil from the Alberta oil sands across the Rocky Mountains to the B.C. coast at Kitimat, to be shipped by tankers to refineries in Asia?
- 35% in favor
- 51% opposed
- 15% don’t know
With only slightly more than 1/3 of Canadians being in favor of the major pipeline projects, it is obvious that there are significant public concerns that still need to be addressed.
While delays in the approval of the Keystone XL project in the United States has made the future and timeline of that project uncertain, the Canadians appear to be changing tracks and now looking more seriously at the option of shipping oil to China. Danielle Droitsch with the Natural Resources Defense Council doesn’t see this as a viable option at the moment. In her blog post, Canadian Prime Minister Harper’s empty threat to ship tar sands to China, she writes:
In a Canadian television interview this week Prime Minister Harper restated a threat that they will send Canada’s tar sands to Asian markets. He said, “I am very serious about selling our oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to China.” While Harper wants U.S. politicians to think Canada can simply ship tar sands elsewhere, the reality is Canada’s only real option at this time is to export oil via a pipeline across America’s heartland. Canada’s Queen University public policy professor Warren Mabee puts it into context calling the Harper’s argument a ‘pipe dream.’ He said, “It’s the sort of things we say to the Americans when the Americans are dilly-dallying around buying our resource, that we can just sell it somewhere else.” In fact, Canada is having significant trouble moving tar sands oil through its own country and particularly to its western coast where it can access international markets.
The reality is that a significant segment of the Canadian population and, in particular, First Nations communities with legitimate land claims, have the potential to significantly delay or otherwise impede the project. Public pressure is working and activists who oppose the pipeline will need to remain diligent, active and vocal to achieve their goals.
Photo credit: Annie Urban