IBD: "Will To Drill Is Strong, Poll Finds; Climate Change Pales As Concern"

Jul 14, 2008

Los Angeles, Jul 14, 2008 - Contrary to claims by Al Gore and others that global warming is the greatest challenge of our time, Americans by better than 3-to-1 say the price of gasoline is a bigger problem now, according to the latest IBD/TIPP Poll.

Moreover, they stand willing to do something about it, including and especially drilling for oil in the Outer Continental Shelf and in federal shale reserves in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

Even drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is backed by a plurality of Americans.

The poll of 920 adults taken last week shows that 73% think "fuel prices at the pump" are a bigger problem for the country than climate change, the new term for global warming.

Only 23% say climate change is more important.

The sentiment prevails across the board — among men and women, old and young, rich and poor, and Republicans, independents and Democrats, two-thirds of whom say gas prices are more important.

Support for offshore drilling and oil shale development is also broad-based, with the former favored by 64% of respondents and the latter by 65%.

The results suggest President Bush has strong public support as he puts pressure on Congress to back more exploration for oil.

They may also explain why Bush and especially Sen. John McCain, the pending GOP presidential candidate, have treaded more gingerly when it comes to drilling in ANWR.

When asked in the IBD/TIPP Poll if they favor drilling in ANWR, 47% say yes and 43% no. Unlike the answers given for offshore drilling and shale-oil development, however, responses on ANWR are more mixed and seem to break along political lines.

Republicans favor ANWR development by 68% to 27%; Democrats oppose it 56% to 40%.

Independents are split down the middle.

The divisions go beyond politics. Men approve of ANWR drilling by 56% to 39%; women disapprove, 46% to 39%. And the older and wealthier the respondents, the more they are in favor.

Investors favor ANWR development by a solid 52% to 41%; noninvestors barely favor it, 44% to 43%.

Bush has proposed opening ANWR for drilling, lifting restrictions on oil-shale leasing in the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and easing the regulatory process to expand oil refining capacity.

McCain has remained opposed to such developments and has voted against ANWR drilling when it has come up in the Senate.

It is drilling in America's national territorial waters, however, that both Bush and McCain are emphasizing this week.

On Monday, Bush lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling that had stood since his father was president.

By itself, the move will do nothing unless Congress acts as well.

Two prohibitions on offshore drilling exist — one imposed by Congress and another by executive order signed by the first President Bush in 1990.

The current president, trying to ease market tensions and boost supply, called last month for Congress to lift its prohibition before he did so himself. On Monday, he moved ahead anyway.

"The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress," Bush said in a statement in the Rose Garden. "Now the ball is squarely in Congress' court."

Bush criticized Congress for failing to lift its ban on offshore drilling.

"For years, my administration has been calling on Congress to expand domestic oil production," Bush said. "Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal. And now Americans are paying at the pump."

McCain called Bush's move "a very important signal" and said his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, should drop his opposition to offshore drilling.

Congressional Democrats, joined by some GOP lawmakers from coastal states, want to keep barring energy companies from drilling in waters along the East and West coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

A succession of presidents, including Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, have sided against drilling in these waters, as has Congress each year for 27 years. Their goal has been to protect beaches and coastal states' tourism economies.

Congressional Democrats have rejected the push to lift the drilling moratorium, accusing the president of hoping the U.S. can drill its way out a problem.

"Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday. "The Bush plan is a hoax. It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence. It just gives millions more acres to the same companies that are sitting on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas."

"This proposal is something you'd expect from an oil company CEO, not the president of the United States," added Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Environment Committee. "The president is taking special-interest government to a new level and threatening our thriving coastal economy."

Bush says offshore drilling could yield up to 18 billion barrels of oil over time, though it would take years for production to start. Bush also says offshore drilling would take pressure off prices over time.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other lawmakers have backed legislation to allow offshore exploration. Their measure would also pursue other ways to expand energy sources.

"Now the only thing standing between consumers at the pump and the increased American energy they are demanding is the Democrat leadership in Congress," McConnell said. "We should act and act now."