You might think rising gasoline prices at a time of flat demand and surging domestic oil production would convince Americans that we need to find alternatives to oil. But no. A new survey shows the public increasingly tilting toward doubling down on oil, on the apparent assumption that if the United States just produces even more, all our $2.50-a-gallon dreams will come true.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted this month found 52 percent of Americans consider developing alternative energy a more important priority than expanding domestic fossil fuel exploration (coal, oil, natural gas), down from 63 percent a year ago.
The report also found that nuclear power has regained a bit of the support it lost after the Fukushima meltdown in Japan last March, with support for further development climbing from 39 percent to 44 percent. Still, a plurality of 49 percent of those surveyed remain opposed.
BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010 also made a small impact on public opinion—until the public forgot about it a couple of years later. According to poll, which was was based on a survey of 1,503 adults, nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) now support offshore drilling, around the same percentage as before the spill. As oil was gushing fron the pipeline, support had dropped to 44 percent, a figure that increased to 57 percent by 2011.
It’s unclear how directly public opinion will impact the nation’s energy policy, especially given the sharp partisan divide on the issue. In March 2011, Republicans were nearly evenly split on whether more renewables or expanded drilling should be the country’s highest energy priority. But now just 33 percent of Republicans see renewables as the top priority. Unsurprisingly, the breakdown comes down the other way for Democrats.