As Election Day nears with major issues such as the pandemic and racial injustice at the forefront of voters’ minds, it is easy to overlook its implications on domestic energy policy. A new poll indicates this shift in focus, but also an unlikely cross-party alignment on natural gas.
The two major candidates have vastly different views on the future of domestic energy. Since his inauguration, President Trump’s administration has worked to lessen the regulatory burden on the nation’s energy industry. These deregulation efforts particularly impact fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, and associated changes, such as allowing fracking on public lands, LNG transmission via rail, and fast-tracking permitting processes for pipeline infrastructure.
His opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has promised massive investment in clean energy technology, undoing Trump’s regulatory rollback and, in his own words, “no more drilling, including offshore”. Though pressured by his party to implement a total ban on fracking, during a rally in Pittsburgh, he stated “I am not banning fracking.” He would prohibit new oil and gas permits on public lands and waters, his website states.
A new poll may shed some light on potential voters’ views regarding unconventional drilling as the election approaches.
The Brunswick Group, a UK-based PR and communications firm, released the results of a poll of 1,000 registered US voters who were asked about their views on natural gas, pipelines, and domestic energy. The poll found that Americans generally have a favorable view toward natural gas as an energy source, with 55 percent of respondents indicating that they have a ‘positive’ or ‘somewhat positive’ view of natural gas. Gas was the fourth-highest rated energy source, falling short of solar, wind, and hydropower, but beating out nuclear, oil, and coal energy by a significant margin. Interestingly, while 76 percent of Republicans view natural gas positively, a majority of Democrats, 55 percent, share that view.
Going further, when asked about natural gas’ role in combating climate change, an 88 percent majority of Republicans believe that natural gas plays a vital role in addressing climate change, though half of those believe this to be true only if the industry takes increased measures to reduce emissions. Democrats, though less emphatically, share this view with Republicans. A total of 68 percent of self-identified Democrats shared the overall opinion of gas playing a vital role in combatting climate change, though a majority, 44 percent, believe that the industry must do more to reduce emissions on their end.
On the issue of pipelines, a majority of respondents do not believe that that halting pipeline projects nationwide would fight climate change, and that the states, not the federal government, should be given more power and authority to regulate on these matters.
According to the poll, the issue of climate change ranks seventh in importance to voters out of 11 issues presented, compared to being the third-highest in importance in 2019. However, the poll was taken in early August of this year, and the recent scorching heat and wildfires in the western US combined with the very active hurricane season may serve to again put climate change in the spotlight in the final days of the presidential race.