A survey by a major PR company, Fleishman-Hillard into how Americans and Canadians reconciled the need for new oil supplies against environmental concerns, has come up with some interesting facts:
Despite the furore over oil sands, it found that less than half of American respondents were aware of the existence of oil sands, which make up the bulk of Canada’s oil reserves.
The study found that 75 per cent of Canadians surveyed, and 68 per cent of Americans, believe future development of the oil sands is a “good thing.” Canadian respondents, however, were divided over the question of whether economic or environmental concerns were more important.
In all, 46 per cent of Canadians surveyed said the potential environmental consequences of development were more critical, while 43 per cent said the secure supplies the region could provide were key. Of U.S. respondents, 55 per cent said secure supply was of greater importance.
In a reflection of how far people will support something if it impacts their wallet, of those respondents saying that oil sands development is bad, only 45 per cent of Canadians, and 31 per cent of Americans said they would support stopping the oil sands development if it led to higher oil prices.
At the end the PR company argued that the oil industry needed to “engage Canadians about the oil sands, both in terms of their contribution to the economy and environmental mitigation.”
That is also what the industry’s critics need to do too.