Pew: Americans support Keystone, oppose hydraulic fracturing

Build the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Squash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

No more fracking.

Americans, the biggest consumers of energy on the planet, have a complex relationship with the oil and gas industry, and it’s hard to know which way the wind is blowing public opinion.

The Pew Research Center’s latest national survey on American’s thoughts about the industry’s hottest hot-button issues shows that 65 percent of Americans want to see the Keystone pipeline run through the country, and the same portion would like tighter regulations for greenhouse emissions.

Pipeline politics: Keystone soon will carry crude through Texas, with or without Obama

At the same time, more than half of the country supports more U.S. offshore drilling, while hydraulic fracturing and nuclear power are increasingly seen as a no-no, according to Pew.

Forty-four percent of Americans favored fracking in September, down four percentage points from six months ago. More men than women back fracking – 51 percent and 38 percent support the practice, respectively, according to Pew.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans say developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, should be top on the country’s energy agenda. Of that group, 73 percent are younger than 30, according to Pew.

Readers in Houston — widely known as the energy capital of the world — may scoff, but if the question, “Is the U.S. going through an energy boom?” were on a test, only 48 percent of the country would get the answer right. Even fewer Americans – 34 percent – say the production increase stems from oil, coal and natural gas.

“There is no indication that awareness of the nation’s growing energy production is related to energy policy attitudes,” Pew said in its report. “For instance, among those who know that energy production is growing mostly from traditional sources, 57 percent prioritize developing alternative energy sources. That is about the same percentage (58 percent) among those who do not know this.”

Oil boom: US energy independence by 2020 won’t mean isolationism

Not surprisingly, one of the most controversial debates surrounding President Barack Obama’s second term, which centers on whether or not to approve the northern leg of the Keystone pipeline, has Americans divided on partisan lines. The president said in June he would only approve the Keystone if it did not “exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Eighty-two percent of Republicans favor the partially built pipeline, which would cost $7.6 billion and span 1,600-mile in two separate portions of pipe in the U.S. Sixty-four percent of independents and 51 percent of Democrats have shown their support for Keystone, as well.

In Texas and five other states the Keystone would run through, support levels are only slightly higher than everywhere else in the country, according to Pew.

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