The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Americans Get the Drill

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 21, 2011

The New York Times reports Americans' attitudes toward offshore oil and natural gas development has been generally supportive the past couple of years. What a contrast with the shifts in drilling policy from the administration in Washington!

No surprise the public feels this way. Americans get the basic economics of gasoline prices - that is, the link between the cost of crude oil and prices at the gas pump. Developing domestic energy supplies simply makes sense.

The Times reports:

  • A Gallup poll taken immediately after the Macondo accident last year showed 50 percent of Americans still supported offshore drilling, while 46 percent opposed. Less than a year later, in March, the public's drilling support had risen to 60 percent, with 37 percent opposed..
  • Public support for offshore drilling tracks with changes in gasoline prices. When gas prices were near record highs in the summer of 2008 and again this spring, support for domestic drilling was highest.
  • In a related finding, Gallup said 49 percent of Americans favor opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration, the highest level of support since Gallup first asked the question in 2002.

"Timing is everything," API President and CEO Jack Gerard told the newspaper. "As the price of gasoline has increased, public attention has turned once again to the question of energy. When they hear their elected officials continue to resist development of American resources, they are appalled."

Here's the deal: Although the administration has run hot, cold and in between on domestic production - hot at the outset, turning cold with last year's Gulf drilling moratorium and lukewarm with the turtle pace of new permitting since the ban was lifted last fall - Americans understand that accessing domestic oil and natural gas supplies is an economic and a security issue: It means more American energy produced by more American workers.

In that context the administration's inconsistent support for domestic production is a negative among Americans who want a comprehensive energy strategy. Does that translate into political pressure? Yes. As Gerard told the Times: "Until the economy gets back on track, until the unemployment rate comes down, and with the price of energy high, I think you'll see the president focus more and more on the supply side."


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.