Geographical proximity key factor in countries’ oil imports: poll

A large oil refinery along the Athabasca River in Alberta's Oilsands.  Fort McMurray, Alberta.

A large oil refinery along the Athabasca River in Alberta’s Oilsands. Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Oil imports from geographically close sources are preferred over supplies from far-flung locations, according to a new public opinion poll of more than 24,000 citizens of 28 countries by Ipsos.

It looked at eight oil-producing jurisdictions: Canada, the United States, Norway, the Middle East, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, and China. Participants were asked to rank their preferred origin for oil imports between Nov. 18 and Dec. 6, 2022.

Ipsos says aside from geography, the weighted data shows a trend towards choosing suppliers based on shared values, such as democratic practices. According to the poll results, Canadian oil ranks number one in North America, while scoring highly around the globe.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and the resulting energy chaos in Europe have raised discussions around energy security, and how that risk should be balanced against efforts to abandon carbon-intensive energy.

“Canada’s reputation as a responsible developer, so far as it goes, is getting through to different parts of the world,” Gregory Jack, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs Canada, told Yahoo Finance Canada. “In times of energy insecurity and transition, global citizens recognize that oil is still needed, and those who import oil want to get it from Canadian producers.”

Canada’s fossil fuel industry has long positioned itself as an ethical producer of oil and gas, touting greater emphasis on cutting emissions, as well as stronger safety and labor standards compared to global peers. At the same time, Canada has been dubbed an environmental laggard by critics who say oil and gas production flies in the face of the government’s international climate promises.

Ipsos says Canada’s average ranking was the highest overall among the nations included in the poll, followed by Norway and the United States. Russia was the least popular jurisdiction, edging out China and Venezuela.

Kendall Dilling, president of Canada’s Pathways Alliance, says the results are a reminder that North American energy is desired worldwide. His industry-led group is looking for more support from Ottawa for its plan to build a major carbon capture project in Alberta’s oilsands.

“Geopolitical instability has many around the world more conscious of where the energy they need comes from,” Dilling said in a statement. “If we work together, and with governments, to advance our climate goals, we can increase the global market share of responsibly produced energy.”

The poll shows Canadians and Americans prefer each others’ oil, with 55 per cent of Americans picking Canada as their first choice for imports. Fifty-seven per cent of Canadians chose the US first. Across North America, Canada was a top-three choice for 71 per cent of respondents.

The preference for geographically close import sources continued in Europe, where Norway won 71 per cent of top responses, followed by Canada (60 per cent) and the US (53 per cent). Jack from Ipsos says the trend is because the public is most familiar with the nations closest to them.

“It is also clear who the least desirable suppliers of oil are,” Ipsos wrote in a release accompanying the poll. “Venezuela, Russia, and China were ranked by respondents in the top three at least often. They were most often selected by their neighbors and other countries with more authoritarian leaders.”

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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