STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Poll: Albertans want a healthy environment

Posted by mhudema on September 15, 2008

Albertans torn between resource riches, protecting environment
Kelly Cryderman
Canwest News Service

CALGARY — Albertans are torn between wanting to reap the full benefits of their natural resource wealth and protecting the environment, a new survey suggests.

“They’re very concerned about the environment, but they don’t want to mess around with the economy,” says Leger Marketing pollster Marc Tremblay.

More than half the Albertans surveyed in the poll for the Calgary Herald – 58 per cent – said governments should take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – even if it means limiting economic development or eliminating jobs.

However, 29 per cent disagreed, according to the poll.

When asked to pick one over the other, 45 per cent agreed that “economic development and growth is more important than protecting the environment”, while 53 per cent disagreed.

About six in 10 of those surveyed said the Alberta government should limit greenhouse gas emissions produced by the Athabasca oilsands, even if it means some projects might be delayed or cancelled. Roughly three in 10 rejected that idea.

The ranks of those who prize environmental protection are especially strong among Albertans age 18 to 34, Tremblay said.

“They’re very ‘in the now,’ ” Tremblay said. “The environment trumps the money and toys right now for many youngsters.”

But with one in six Albertans directly employed by the energy industry, and the province enjoying wealth that still measures favourably against the rest of North America, experts wonder if people are being truthful when they profess to treasure soil, water, and trees more than their potential earnings.

“Not for a second,” said Andrew Leach, a professor of energy and environmental economics at the University of Alberta’s school of business. “They value it when it’s free.”

The online poll surveyed 962 Albertans aged 18 and over between Aug. 25 to 29.
It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey was conducted before Friday’s sudden rise in pump prices.

But even with hurricane Ike pushing gasoline costs higher, there are signs Alberta’s economy is slowing.

The price of crude oil dropped to less than $100 US a barrel this week for the first time since April.

Residents in Edmonton and Calgary have seen the price of new houses dip recently, the worst performance of those markets in 23 and 12 years, respectively.

Alberta still has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, but Statistics Canada recently reported the province lost 4,200 jobs in August, while the rest of the country added 15,200 positions.

The poll results come as federal parties debate the merit of introducing a carbon tax that would attach a price to greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, the Alberta government is investing billions of dollars to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as well as charging large-scale emitters such as power plants and refineries.

One of the poll’s key findings was the difference in attitude between younger and older Albertans.

More than seven in 10 surveyed between 18 to 34 years of age said the government needs to limit greenhouse gas emissions produced by the oilsands, even if it means that some projects might be delayed or cancelled.

By contrast, only 56 per cent of people over 55 years old support the notion.
The differences in attitudes doesn’t end with age.

There are also major differences between the sexes.

Significantly more women (68 per cent) said they agree the government needs to limit greenhouse gases – even if there are negative economic consequences – than men (55 per cent).

In a separate question, seven in 10 Albertans said they think the oil and gas industry cares more about making a profit than protecting the environment.

About one-quarter disagreed.

Calgary Herald

kcryderman@theherald.canwest.com

© Canwest News Service 2008
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