Energy transition is a fundamental part of the policy response to climate change, but unlike climate change, we know little about the factors that shape public attitudes about it. We address three questions: 1) how supportive are people of energy transition, 2) how do pre-existing ideas – about politics, economics, climate change, and energy – affect public views on energy transition, and 3) how malleable is public opinion about transition? Using the Canadian province of Alberta – a context where oil and gas are politically and economically predominant – we assess these questions with a population-based survey experiment (n = 1591). Results indicate that energy transition is widely popular. Pre-existing values and beliefs about the economy; political identification with the left-right spectrum; worry about climate change; and hope in the future of oil and gas as a predominant industry strongly structure attitudes about transition. We argue that championing the economic benefits of clean energy will not be persuasive with people who continue to have high hopes in the future economic benefits of fossil fuels. Instead, we suggest policy makers focus instead on the economic risks that come from continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Energy Policy, Vol. 162

Melanee Thomas, Brooks DeCillia, John B. Santos, Lori Thorlakson

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