Sorry, oil, Canadians just aren’t that into you anymore. That’s the unpolished bottom line from a new national survey by polling company Abacus Data that finds Canadians expect petroleum to be a declining part of the economy by the middle of the century—and would be happy to see that happen even sooner.
The number of Canadians surveyed who anticipate that demand for oil will be falling in 10 years has climbed 15 percentage points in just the last four months, to reach a statistical tie with those who predict oil demand will still be rising by then. If not within 10 years, then a two-to-one majority (57% to 22%) believes the shift will occur within 30—up by 18 points.
“In terms of what people would prefer to see happen,” Abacus’ Bruce Anderson and David Coletto note, “a majority (55%) would prefer to see demand in decline in 10 years; fully two-thirds would like to see demand declining in 30 years.
Strikingly, even in Alberta, more respondents want to see oil demand falling than rising by 2027, with nearly half (48%) hoping to see demand falling within 30 years, more than twice the share (20%) still cheering for demand to continue to climb through mid-century.
And, “while NDP and Liberal voters are more inclined to want to see a decline in demand for oil, a striking 44% of Conservative voters would like to see oil in decline in 10 years, and 54% feel that way on a 30-year-out basis,” the researchers note.
Asked to identify their preferred energy mix for Canada in two or three decades, no fossil fuel received support from the majority of Canadians. Solar and wind energy received the top endorsements, from 84% and 76% of respondents respectively. Sixty-two and 61% supported greater inclusion of wave and tidal and hydroelectric energy, respectively. Natural gas, the leading fossil choice, was supported by 43% of those surveyed; 24% and 15% respectively endorsed more nuclear and oil generation. The survey report showed no responses for coal, which is due to be phased out across Canada by 2030.
The majority of Canadians surveyed told Abacus they are “recently growing more worried about climate change, and it is changing my view of how long we should use oil.” That number includes almost half (48%) of Albertans, and more than a third (35%) of self-identified Conservatives.
As well, three-quarters of Canadians—including 70% of Albertans—worry that “Canada [will] fall behind in the race to innovate with new forms of energy because of a reliance on oil.”
On the narrower issue of building additional petroleum product pipelines, however, Abacus reports that while “negative feelings” have plateaued at around 21%, “positive feelings (44%) have dropped.” Canadians with warm feelings for pipelines still outnumber those with chilly ones by two to one, however. More than a third of those surveyed, 36%, are “neutral” on the subject.
“Worth noting,” the researchers write, is that while opposition to pipeline construction in British Columbia and Quebec is above the national average (at 29% in both cases), nearly two-thirds of British Columbians (64%) “believe the country should continue to add pipeline capacity, while investing in efforts to reduce emissions. Quebecers are evenly split on this question.”
Even on the highly-charged proposal by U.S.-owned Kinder Morgan Canada to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline, which the newly elected NDP provincial government opposes, “27% [of Abacus’ respondents] support [Trans Mountain], 32% oppose and 29% say they can support the project under some circumstances.”