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Poll: Consumers Back Natural Gas Expansion, Drilling

In a new national consumer poll, natural gas beat renewables and other forms of energy as to which projects should be considered for expansion, something an overwhelming majority of consumers also say would create badly needed jobs in a struggling economy.

According to a survey conducted by the nonprofit American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI), 89% of consumers favor expanding the number of energy projects in the United States. The survey also found that 94% of consumers believe having more domestic energy production would boost the nation's economy, and 93% believe investing in additional energy projects in the United States will create jobs.

The survey also found that 80% of respondents favor natural gas exploration and drilling in the United States. Of that 80%, 37% said they "strongly favored" exploration and drilling while 43% said they "favored" it. Only 12% were opposed to the idea.

Asked what types of energy projects should be considered for expansion, 81% said natural gas. Renewables immediately followed with solar posting 80%, wind 77%, wave and hydroelectric 74%, and alternative fuels 74%. Oil came next at 68%, followed by geothermal at 67%, pipeline projects at 63% and coal at 52%. Shale oil and nuclear tied at 46%, and transmission line projects were at the bottom of the list at 43%.

"This data underscores how well the American people understand the overwhelming economic, environmental and energy security benefits associated with clean burning American natural gas," Travis Windle, spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday. "The fact is clear that responsible American natural gas development continues to be an unrivaled private sector job creation engine."

ACI found that most of the 1,000 people it contacted by telephone for the survey were pessimistic about the U.S. economy, with 34% characterizing it as "somewhat weak" and another 58% going a step further to describe it as "very weak."

Anne Danehy, a researcher for ACI, said the poll numbers were not a surprise. "Our survey confirmed what we suspected," Danehy said. "Americans see us having a weak economy, and they are looking for ways to put Americans back to work and rebuild our economy. Americans see a connection between U.S. energy projects and jobs."

The ACI poll also found that 82% of respondents believe investments designed to spur U.S. energy production will decrease the nation's dependence on foreign energy, while 68% believe those investments would also lead to lower energy prices for consumers.

"Regulatory gridlock is hurting the U.S. economy, and this survey shows that consumer interests are not being well served," ACI President Steve Pociask said. "This is the real cost of over regulation: lost domestic production and lost jobs."

The poll revealed that on energy expansion questions, respondents who identified themselves as Democratic and Republican voters had similar answers.

"These results show strong consumer support for expanding domestic energy production as a means to accomplish several important policy goals: achieving lower energy costs, reducing the nation's dependence on foreign energy sources and creating jobs," Danehy said. "A sensible public policy approach should be able to accomplish these goals in a timely manner, while being very mindful of consumer and environmental protections."

Recent polls conducted by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics and Quinnipiac University have found respondents divided over the issue of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania and New York, respectively (see Shale Daily, Oct. 13; Sept. 22).

ACI's website said the nonprofit believes "that excessive taxes and regulations often harm consumers, investment and jobs." About five years ago ACI was blasted in an editorial on telecom industry website "Broadband Reports" as being an "astroturf" -- or phony grassroots -- organization set up by a telecommunications consultant to sway the then-ongoing debate over net neutrality.

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