Americans like their natural gas molecules to be homegrown, and most of them prefer that they be kept at home instead of shipped abroad as liquefied natural gas (LNG), a recent poll by the University of Texas at Austin (UT) found.

Thirty-nine percent of poll respondents believe the United States should keep the natural gas it produces at home rather than sell it to other countries, the latest UT Energy Poll found. Only 28% said they support exporting U.S. gas to other countries. Responses differ by gender, with 33% of men favoring export and 22% of women in favor.

While poll findings on energy issues often reflect partisan bias, Democrats and Republicans report similar responses to the question of whether the U.S. should export natural gas to other countries, researchers said. Roughly 37% of respondents from both major political parties oppose natural gas exports and 30% favor them. Those identifying themselves as “independents” politically are most likely to oppose exporting natural gas (44%).

Asian markets, in particular, are seen as a lucrative destination for U.S. gas, and buyers in Japan and China have been eager to add U.S. LNG to their portfolios (see Daily GPI, April 3). Meanwhile, some large end-users of natural gas and natural gas liquids, particularly The Dow Chemical Co., have lobbied hard against exports (see Daily GPI, March 12). The U.S. Department of Energy has yet to decide on multiple applications for LNG export to countries that are not parties to free trade agreements with the United States.

Consumers generally favor increased domestic energy production but have mixed feelings about the current natural gas boom, the poll found. In particular, the survey illustrates how sharply divided the public remains over the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for well stimulation.

Survey participants who said they are familiar with fracking are more likely to support gas exports (37%) than those who are not familiar with fracking (20%).

Overall, 45% of respondents familiar with fracking say they support its use for fossil fuel extraction, down from 48% a year ago, while 41% say they oppose the practice. However, of this group, only 22% of Democrats support fracking, while 60% oppose it, and 71% of Republicans support fracking, while 20% oppose it.

Consumers continued to express concern about possible harm to the environment from fracking, with the potential for water contamination again topping the list of specific concerns. “More consumers — 43% today versus 38% a year ago — say there should be more regulation of hydraulic fracturing,” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the UT Energy Poll. “Still, we also see steady support for the expansion of domestic natural gas development.”

Other findings from the poll include:

The online nationwide survey was conducted March 11–20. Data were weighted using U.S. Census Bureau figures, as well as propensity scores, to ensure the sample’s composition reflects the actual U.S. population.

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