Political climate change: Public warming to exploration

Polls Chart Shift in Energy Attitudes

Higher energy costs hitting the pocketbooks of American consumers are creating a tectonic shift in attitudes about exploration.

Recent surveys and media reports are confirming the change of heart.

A sampling of thoughts on U.S. offshore exploration:

  • Reuters/Zogby poll, June 18: 60 percent favor, 40 percent oppose.
  • Gallup Poll, June 19: 57 percent favor, 41 percent oppose. The same poll showed only 20 percent thought ‘Big Oil’ is the major problem.
  • Rasmussen Reports, June 26: 59 percent favor drilling offshore the United States. The same poll showed Florida voters favoring offshore drilling 59-32 percent.
  • Pew Research Center, July 2: 57 percent favor, 41 percent oppose.
  • The pollsters cited a change from previous results, with Pew noting that the results favored offshore drilling for the first time this decade. A poll just last February was 35-55 percent against.

“The public’s changing energy priorities are most evident in the growing percentage that views increased energy exploration – including mining and drilling, as well as the construction of new power plants – as a more important priority for energy policy than increased conservation and regulation,” Rasmussen reported.

“Nearly half (47 percent) now rates energy exploration as the more important priority, up from 35 percent in February,” the report added.

The New York Times reported that when Washington, D.C., lawmakers returned from their 4th of July holiday, some attitudes were changed “after spending a week in their states and districts with angry and frightened consumers.”

One of the telling quotes in the Times report that indicates the sweeping nature of the attitudes was one from the Democrat senator of North Dakota, who stated, “This (energy policy) is the number one issue on people’s minds, very clearly.” North Dakota is not necessarily the first state that comes to mind when it comes to caring much about energy policy.

Then there’s this from the Wall Street Journal: “I’m open to drilling and responsible production,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), adding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could also support the move.

And, from the Los Angeles Times, “For years I have argued that we should avoid offshore drilling and tapping into underground reserves in ANWR until there was an emergency that left us with no choice,” Rep. James T. Walsh (R-N.Y.), a longtime backer of the drilling ban, said recently. “That time has come.”

The L.A. Times also wrote Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) said he saw “a shifting political climate.

“I think it’s changed. And I think $4 a gallon has done that,” he said. “This is compelling. I hear that from people everywhere I go.”

Martinez said in the new climate, the nation needed resources.

“It’s about how can we supply enough product so that there is more supply available to meet the ever-increasing demand,” Martinez said. “And offshore may be a part of that equation.”  

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