Energy Economy

More Than Half of Americans Oppose Fracking: Gallup

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been the single biggest driver of increased U.S. crude oil and natural gas production in the past several years. But not only have horizontal drilling and fracking led to increased production, Americans’ opinion of fracking has taken a decided negative turn. In the latest poll by Gallup, 51% of Americans now oppose fracking as a means of increasing U.S. production of oil and natural gas. A year ago opposition totaled 40%.

Gallup included the fracking question in its 2016 environment survey.

In part the opposition could be due to current low (but rising) pump prices, and those low prices could also be the power behind increased opposition to nuclear energy and increased support for alternative energy. Americans also expressed more concern about global warming, with 64% expressing either a great deal or fair amount of concern, compared with 36% expressing little or no concern.

Gallup cited a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report issued earlier this week saying that the USGS has linked more than 1,000 earthquakes last year to fracking in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas. The primary cause of the earthquakes is not the hydraulic fracturing process itself, but the injection of massive amounts of wastewater back into the ground, adding to stresses on the underlying geology.

By political party affiliation, Republican support for fracking dropped from 66% a year ago to 55% and Democratic support dropped from 26% to 25%. Support from independents fell from 35% to 34%.

Will this attitude shift lead to less fracking? That is not very likely, given the current low prices for gasoline. How energy prices affect a consumer’s wallet likely will remain the main driver of attitudes about fossil fuels, alternative energy and global warming. Maybe that’s too cynical, but that’s the way it has worked in the past.

Americans are much more sympathetic to fossil fuels producers when gasoline prices are high and oil producers say that if they could just drill more prices would fall. And what are high prices? The cutoff seems to be about $4 per gallon on average in the 50 states. We’re currently paying about half that, and it may be another year or more to get back to that average price.

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