Oil industry poll finds voters want more oil, gas development

A majority of voters in both parties want the United States to develop more oil and natural gas, and most want the federal government to do more to support it, according to a poll commissioned by the oil industry.

The survey, conducted by Harris Poll for the American Petroleum Institute (API) found that 77 percent of voters support more oil and gas development, with 92 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats agreeing.

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“Clearly, voters do not think energy should be a partisan issue,” Erik Militon, director of API’s upstream group, told reporters Wednesday.

API used the survey to push for more offshore oil and gas permits.

“Expanding U.S. energy production in areas the federal government currently holds off-limits would grow our economy and provide new sources of income for the government,” Militon said. “In the Atlantic alone, the benefits could equal 280,000 new American jobs and $51 billion in revenue for the government.”

On the specific question of offshore exploration, 68 percent of respondents in API’s survey said they support drilling. The same share of respondents said that an election candidate’s support for offshore drilling would increase the likelihood that the respondent would vote for him or her.

API released its survey days after the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said it would start to issue permits to test for oil and gas off the Atlantic Coast.

BOEM did not commit to allowing drilling. Environmental groups criticized BOEM’s move, saying the seismic testing could hurt marine life, and it’s likely a step toward allowing drilling.

“These surveys will give our industry and the government a clearer picture of the oil and gas resources hidden beneath the Atlantic seafloor, although there is a lack of scientific support for some of the constraints the government might place on survey operations,” Militon said.

API said it will submit formal comments to BOEM next week on its decision to grant permits.