The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

To the President’s Ear on Energy

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted March 21, 2012

As the president hits the road to talk about energy, he should first listen to what the American people are saying, reflected in two new polls this week.

Start with a Harris Interactive survey that shows 76 percent of voters believe increasing taxes on oil and natural gas companies could cost them more at the fuel pump. For a president who continues to talk about hiking taxes on energy companies that should be a big red flag.

Americans who’re getting slammed by higher fuel costs appear to sense that increasing energy taxes would drive up energy producers’ costs, which – as the Congressional Research Service found last year – could decrease exploration, development and production while elevating prices.

Other details from the Harris poll of 1,009 respondents:

  • 81 percent believe more U.S. oil and natural gas development could reduce gasoline prices.
  • 90 percent believe a pro-energy development strategy could lead to more U.S. jobs.
  • 84 percent believe increasing domestic oil and gas production could enhance our energy security.
  • 64 percent believe some in Washington are intentionally delaying domestic oil and natural gas development, potentially hurting the economy and leading to higher consumer energy costs.

Clearly, those are slam-dunk numbers on energy policies the president and his administration have been talking about a lot – while keeping 87 percent of America’s offshore areas off limits, while overseeing declines in Gulf of Mexico production and while presiding over a downward trajectory in leasing and permitting on federal lands.

Then there’s the Pew Research Center’s latest findings, that as fuel prices rise, so does Americans’ support for more oil and natural gas production:

“… support for allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters, which plummeted during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has recovered to pre-spill levels. Nearly two-thirds (65%) favor allowing increased offshore drilling, up from 57% a year ago and 44% in June 2010, during the Gulf spill.”

That last stat is worth underscoring. While Americans’ support for a variety of energy policies – from improved fuel efficiency to more federal support for mass transit systems – is pretty much where it has been, public support for more offshore oil and natural gas drilling has increased significantly. Pew finds that twice as many Americans (65 percent) support increased offshore drilling as those who oppose more drilling (31 percent).

Again, the Pew poll suggests growing numbers of Americans believe that increasing domestic supplies of oil and natural gas can put downward pressure on the price of crude oil, which accounts for 76 percent of the cost of what they pay at the pump. So, while the president continues to talk as though little can be done about fuel prices, U.S. consumers who’re being punished at the pump aren’t buying it.

A couple of other tidbits from Pew:

  • Of American voters who know something about hydraulic fracturing and energy from shale, 52 percent are in favor compared to 35 percent opposed. Among independents, support is actually a little stronger than the overall number, 54 percent to 35 percent.
  • Awareness of fracking and producing natural gas from shale is mixed, but Pew found that 63 percent of those surveyed had heard something about the process.

One more note about Pew’s survey. The poll finding that Pew chose to highlight in its public announcement – Americans’ top energy priority – stems from a glaringly false choice foisted on the 1,503 sampled adults who were forced to choose one top priority between alternative sources (wind, solar, hydrogen technology) and expanded oil, natural gas and coal production. Those aren’t mutually exclusive options.

We commend the 5 percent of respondents who selected “both” even though the Pew folks didn’t offer it as a choice, as well as the 4 percent who didn’t know or refused to answer – perhaps, like us, frustrated that some continue to pit energy sources against each other when the truth is America needs all energy options to build a secure future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.