Poll: Republicans clash with voters on oil industry priorities

WASHINGTON — Republicans in control of the House and Senate are bucking the wishes of American voters by advancing the Keystone XL pipeline and other oil industry priorities, according to new polling data released Thursday.

The survey of 1,101 likely voters in early December, conducted for the Center for American Progress, shows that their energy and environmental priorities are more renewable energy, slashing dependence on foreign oil and cutting air pollution.

“What I think is striking about the poll is the degree to which Americans place a high value on environmental protection and especially on transitioning to renewable energy sources in coming years,” said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey. “It’s clear that efforts in the new Congress to promote an anti-environmental agenda designed to benefit fossil fuel corporations will be out of step with the priorities of most Americans.”

For instance, 65 percent of respondents said the federal government is doing too little to promote energy independence from foreign oil, and 57 percent said it was doing too little to promote the development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Fifty percent said there was too little action to reduce smog and other air pollution.

When asked an open-ended question about what the president and Congress should focus on when it comes to energy policy, 11 percent of voters volunteered that they wanted more renewable energy, while 10 percent cited less dependence on foreign oil.

Only 7 percent mentioned allowing the Keystone XL pipeline.

“If you watch the goings on in Congress these days you would think that Keystone is the alpha and omega of the public’s energy agenda and that’s simply not the case,” Garin said.

Republicans give it a higher priority than Democrats, Garin noted — meaning GOP leaders’ decision to put the pipeline at the top of the congressional agenda this year could play well with their base.

“Virtually the only respondents to volunteer anything on the Keystone XL pipeline here are Republican voters,” Garin said. “Only 2 percent of Democrats, only 3 percent of independent voters and 16 percent of Republican voters mentioned something about the Keystone XL pipeline.”

All of the above

One of the survey’s findings suggests that political rhetoric touting an “all-of-the-above” energy policy doesn’t resonate with voters, even though politicians from both parties have adopted it.

Only 30 percent of respondents described as extremely appealing “a true all-of-the-above energy policy that boosts the use of all domestic energy resources, including coal, oil and gas, and renewable energy sources like wind and solar.”

By contrast, 51 percent suggested a different approach was extremely appealing: they favored “a balanced energy policy that meets our needs for energy independence while better protecting public health, our national public lands and clean drinking water.”

Crude exports

The survey also suggested there are political risks in oil producers’ crusade to export U.S. crude.

According to the poll, nearly seven out of 10 voters oppose allowing oil and gas companies to export more of those fossil fuels to foreign companies, with the opposition only slightly stronger among Democrats than independents and Republicans.

And 71 percent of respondents said they agreed with those who said a better approach to lifting restrictions on oil exports was “investing in new refinery capacity here at home to refine and sell more oil.”