Jeff Gaulin says Canadian trust of the oil and gas sector – a measly 18% according to a new CAPP/Ipsos survey – is roughly the same as in other developed countries like Spain, Germany, and France. Poll data says he’s right, but I bet Spain and France don’t have to build inter-provincial pipelines that require political support from other Spaniards, Germans, and Frenchmen, as in Canada. In which case a little more trust would go a long way.
The new survey was released by the Canadian Assoc. of Petroleum Producers earlier this week. The top line conclusion is good news for the Canadian oil and gas industry: the world trusts and likes Canada and would happily import more of our energy products.
“With global energy demand forecasted to grow 31 per cent by 2040, Canadian oil and natural gas is poised to become a major supplier in meeting the world’s needs,” Gaulin, CAPP communications VP, said in the media release that accompanied the survey.
“It’s time we start to share Canada’s energy story with the rest of the world. We are leaders in environmental stewardship, responsible development and sustainability.”
As part of the 2017 Global Energy Pulse, Ipsos surveyed more than 22,000 respondents in 32 countries. Over 50 per cent said they were neutral toward Canada or didn’t know enough to have an informed opinion, but 31 per cent said Canada is the “preferred choice for oil and natural gas imports, putting us at the top of the list of 11 producing countries.”
Israel, the United States, Algeria, India, and South Africa were the top five countries with the most interest in importing Canadian oil and natural gas.
India’s appearance on that list is good news because the International Energy Agency forecasts a 49 per cent increase in that country’s energy consumption – mostly provided by oil and natural gas, some coal – by 2040, with China clocking in at 46 per cent.
“I always look at where India and China are going. Those are the two countries that are driving future demand of energy for all forms,” Gaulin said in an interview.
“When we asked the question ‘Which countries do you think are developing leading-edge technologies to reduce their impact on the environment?’ India and China put Canada at the top. If we’re going to be part of the world’s energy mix and meet huge growing demand overseas, we’re going to need to fit within a world that’s moving towards a lower carbon impact.”
The Ipsos survey showed that 40 per cent of respondents said they would prefer their country import oil and gas from nations with a climate policy, while only 20 per cent said it didn’t matter.
“So again, seems to be that clear split where the world wants to that there are policies in place that will allow for development within a climate change framework,” said Gaulin, who believes the same principle would hold true at home, but too many Canadians haven’t heard the good news yet.
The Alberta-based oil and gas industry is thought of favourably by just one in five (21%) Canadians, “significantly lower than results from other major producing countries,” according to the Ipsos report.
When it comes to trusting industry, Canada limped in with an 18 per cent trust score.
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Those results illustrate a point I’ve been making for some time now: the Canadian oil and gas industry has lost political legitimacy over the last decade. Political legitimacy is the sort of trust we accord to Parliament or the police, institutions that underpin Canadian legal, political, and economic structures.
In Canada, trust in the oil and gas industry has been eroded by climate change denial, attacks from the environmental movement, and the real world changes in energy systems and technologies – e.g. electric vehicles, wind turbines – that Canadians now see in their daily lives.
Industry needs to regain that trust if it wants to get Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline to the West Coast and Energy East built in a timely fashion. Or at all.
I think Gaulin and CAPP may not have understood this point in the past, but they clearly get it now.
“Canadians would allow for continued growth in oil and natural gas production in Canada if they knew that the industry was aligned to their own views that climate change is real, that we take it seriously, and that we’re doing our part through innovation and technology to reduce our impact on the environment with every new barrel of oil,” said Gaulin.
Will Canadians – particularly those in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec – get the new and improved message in time to provide healthy support for new pipelines?
CAPP and the industry have left it to the eleventh hour, but they really do have a powerful message that Canadians need to hear.
As Gaulin wryly notes, the global community seems to have accepted that Canada is an environmentally responsible oil and gas producer, even if Canadians don’t.