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Citizen acceptance of unconventional fossil fuels in Canada

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Citizen acceptance can represent a significant barrier to the implementation of energy projects, which is increasingly relevant as unconventional fossil fuel production is forecasted to expand in Canada. I use a nationally representative survey sample of the Canadian population (n=1407) to examine citizen acceptance of five prominent unconventional fossil fuel developments: oil sands, Northern Gateway Pipeline, Trans Mountain Pipeline, Energy East Pipeline, and hydraulic fracturing. Across Canada, oil sands and pipeline developments tend to have lower acceptance than renewable energy and conventional oil, but more acceptance than nuclear and coal. Among Canadian regions, acceptance for unconventional fossil fuel developments is consistently higher among respondents in Alberta (the province where most fossil fuel development occurs), who are more likely to perceive economic benefits and less likely to perceive environmental and social costs. Opposition tends to be higher among respondents in British Columbia and Quebec. Acceptance levels are similar for oil sands and oil sands pipelines within all Canadian regions, while hydraulic fracturing has significantly lower acceptance in each region. Otherwise, regression analyses indicate consistent patterns of fossil fuel development acceptance across the full sample: biospheric and altruistic values and environmental concern predict higher acceptance, and egoistic and traditional values and trust in oil and gas companies predict lower acceptance. Results provide a number of insights to policymakers and stakeholders, including the strong regional differences in development acceptance, and how citizens perceive oil sands related projects quite differently from hydraulic fracturing development.
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