Local News

Poll: NC residents blame oil companies, OPEC for gas prices

Posted April 3, 2012 12:21 p.m. EDT

— Although Republican presidential candidates are blaming President Barack Obama for gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, a poll released Tuesday shows most North Carolina residents point the finger at oil companies and foreign countries.

The Elon University Poll surveyed 534 residents statewide last week and also found that people were evenly split on a controversial method of natural gas drilling being considered by North Carolina lawmakers. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.24 percentage points.

Nearly three-quarters of those polled blamed oil companies for high gas prices, while foreign countries that produce oil were blamed by 58 percent of respondents.

The poll asked people to rank how much blame to assign to each group on a scale of 1 to 5, and the percentages reflect the number who assigned a 4 or 5 to each.

Obama's administration was cited by 42 percent, Democrats in Congress by 41 percent and Republicans in Congress by 35 percent. Forty percent said American driving habits were to blame, while 34 percent blamed environmental regulations.

Most respondents said the U.S. needs to rely more on solar and wind power for its energy needs. Eighty-five percent supported more solar power, and 80 percent supported more wind power.

Meanwhile, 72 percent said the country needs to be less reliant on oil, and 63 percent said coal use needs to decline. Respondents were split on nuclear energy, with 42 percent calling for expansion and 50 percent saying less nuclear power should be used.

Seventy percent of those polled said natural gas needs to play a larger role in the nation's energy mix, but a majority say they don't know enough about a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to determine if it's good for North Carolina.

Fracking involves drilling horizontally into underground deposits of shale and then pumping a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into a well to break apart the rock and release natural gas.

Opponents of the process say it would damage water resources and contaminate the environment, while supporters say it would provide an economic boon to central North Carolina.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has said fracking could be done safely in North Carolina if the proper safeguards were put in place first. The agency is expected to deliver its findings to lawmakers next month.

Twenty-two percent of Elon poll respondents say they oppose fracking in North Carolina, while 21 percent say they support it.