Posted July 23, 2014
There are three connected points in a new poll of registered U.S. voters on domestic oil and natural gas development that should resonate in Washington: Strong majorities of registered voters support more domestic drilling and production, they don’t think the federal government does enough to encourage development of domestic resources and they’re inclined to vote for political candidates who support oil and natural gas development here at home.
AP Upstream Group Director Erik Milito talked about the survey of 1,012 registered voters and issues related to increasing access to domestic oil and natural gas reserves during a conference call with reporters:
“Voters from across the political spectrum want to find and tap the vast oil and natural gas resources waiting to be discovered off our shores. Our industry stands ready to do the job safely and responsibly, and the benefits to our economy and our national security are impossible to deny. All the federal government needs to do is say, ‘Yes.’”
Support for increased domestic oil and natural gas production is broad and has potential political impact. For example, if a candidate supports offshore drilling and producing more oil and natural gas domestically, registered voters say they are more likely to support that candidate – a result that’s strong across divisions of party and age:
Specific poll questions and results:
- 77 percent support increased domestic production of oil and natural gas.
- 87 percent say it’s important to produce more oil and natural gas here at home.
- 68 percent support offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.
- 94 percent say energy is important as an issue for the federal government.
- 28 percent say the federal government is doing enough to encourage domestic oil and natural gas development. Sixty-three percent don’t believe Washington is doing enough.
- 82 percent say a politician’s stand on energy will be important to them as they vote in this fall’s elections.
- 68 percent say they’re more likely to support a candidate who supports more domestic offshore oil and natural gas production.
- 86 percent agree that increased domestic oil and natural gas production could help strengthen U.S. energy security.
- 80 percent agree that more U.S. oil and natural gas production could help strengthen America’s national security by lessening negative impacts of political instability in other parts of the world.
In addition, big majorities agree that increased domestic production could lead to more jobs (90 percent), help lower energy costs for consumers (79 percent), help stimulate the economy (89 percent) and benefit federal and state budgets through lease payments, royalty fees and other sources of revenue (82 percent).
Milito said significant offshore oil and natural gas resources are located in the 87 percent of waters the federal government has placed off limits to development. Just last week, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) upped its estimate of energy that could be found on the Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS) – at least 4.72 billion barrels of oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, levels that are 43 percent and 20 percent higher, respectively, than the last government estimate for the Atlantic OCS done in 2011. Yet, that and other OCS areas, also believed to hold vast energy reserves, are mostly off the table for development:
“Oil and gas production dropped on federal lands and offshore areas between 2009 and 2013 while the rest of the country experienced an unprecedented energy revolution responsible for millions of jobs. Expanding U.S. energy production in areas the federal government currently holds off-limits would grow our economy and provide new sources of income for the government. In the Atlantic alone, the benefits could equal 280,000 new American jobs and $51 billion in revenue for the government.”
Certainly, data in the new poll indicates Americans are aware of the potential energy and potential energy benefits if policymakers choose energy. Milito mentioned the jobs and economic stimulus that could come from increased domestic oil and natural gas production – as well as a strengthening of U.S. and global security by building greater supply stability by exporting American energy:
“If the federal government allowed U.S. oil and natural gas companies to compete for customers on the global marketplace – and allowed oil and natural gas development in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico – other energy producing nations would find it much harder to use their supplies as a destabilizing weapon of diplomacy.”
To be sure, there are new positive signs on offshore drilling. Last week BOEM gave the go-ahead for safe seismic surveying for a large portion of the Atlantic OCS, which is an important step toward development. Milito praised the decision, saying seismic testing would give industry and government a clearer picture of the oil and natural gas reserves in those coastal waters. If testing permits are expedited, he said, surveying operations could begin next spring.
Yet, even if testing proceeds the surveyed areas will remain off limits to development unless the federal government agrees to hold lease sales there by including them in its next five-year leasing program for 2017-2022. Milito said government can include the Atlantic OCS in the next program even as seismic data is being collected:
“I think it’s positive that they’ve made the statement that they can move forward with the five-year program and potentially include the Atlantic even if these surveys are not done, because that information could still become available and collected and then it could be used to inform those decisions. But if you keep areas out of the program, if you take those opportunities off the table, you’re pushing things way further out. So from our long-term energy planning standpoint, the government and industry standpoint, it’s important to keep options on the table.”
The message from registered voters to Washington is clear: Say yes to domestic oil and natural gas. Say yes to increased access to offshore and onshore reserves, to jobs, to economic growth and greater energy security.
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.