Many British Columbians are in favour of the provincial government's plan to expand the liquified natural gas industry, but the primary extraction method remains unpopular, according to an Insights West poll released on Wednesday.
The survey found 50 per cent of respondents agree with the governing B.C. Liberals that increased natural gas exports through increased extraction, construction of new pipelines and liquefaction plants on the north coast. However 47 per cent of respondents said they're not in favour of using hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
"It certainly places the government in an interesting communications challenge, which is you only have one in four who support fracking but have half who say they want to see LNG benefits," Insights West vice-president of public affairs Mario Canseco said.
Increasing liquified natural gas (LNG) exports was the main plank of the Liberals successful re-election platform this spring, with Premier Christy Clark touting her party's plan of being capable of eliminating the province's debt within 15 years.
The poll found 50 per cent of respondents supported the plan, with 32 per cent opposed to the idea. Yet only 26 per cent said they would support increased fracking, which involves using a high pressure water-based solution to get the gas out of the ground.
Environmental groups have raised concerns about fracking, saying it could pollute ground water sources. Industry groups counter that it's safe and have allowed the development of deposits that couldn't be accessed previously.
"The main issue for the government is making sure those who are worried about environmental concerns can be put at ease, and ensuring that the LNG bonanza - when it arrives - is going to help everybody," Canseco said.
There was more support for increased fracking in rural areas of the province, while opposition was concentrated in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. The split was also along party lines, with respondents identified as Liberal voters overwhelmingly in favour of increased extraction, while NDP and Green Party partisans opposed.
Only a slight majority of respondents, 54 per cent, said they were familiar with fracking. Canseco said that's a lower level of understanding compared to other environmental/industry debates in the province like the Northern Gateway pipeline and coal exports.
Canseco was surprised to find only 39 per cent said they thought that fracking was currently taking place in B.C., even though the oil and gas industry is already using fracking techniques in the province.
"There are still a lot of people that assume that this hasn't happened in B.C., and that's one of the things that really struck me," Canseco said. "I think that's also part of this communications exercise."
The online survey of 638 British Columbians commissioned on behalf of Business in Vancouver and June Warren-Nickle's Energy Group was conducted between Aug. 22-25. It has a margin of error equivalent to of 3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.