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In the News: Offshore Drilling

The Trump administration announced a new regulatory decision Thursday that will open up nearly all U.S. coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling. This move would undo the ban that Barack Obama imposed on offshore drilling in 2016. Several political leaders from coastal states -- both Democrats and Republicans -- voiced opposition to ending to the ban on offshore drilling, citing concerns over the potential environmental impact.

Public Opinion Context

  • Americans typically favor protecting the environment over producing traditional U.S. energy supplies. Fifty-nine percent of U.S. adults said they prioritized protecting the environment in Gallup's March 2017 Environment survey, compared with 34% who supported the production of oil, natural gas and coal. This was the highest percentage who favored protecting the environment over energy production since 2001.
  • In that same survey, most Americans said the U.S. should emphasize alternative energy (71%) rather than the production of oil, gas and coal (23%) to solve the nation's energy problems.

  • Low support for additional fossil fuel development may be due to the relatively small percentage of Americans who worry about the availability and affordability of energy. Just over a quarter (27%) said they worried "a great deal" about the availability and affordability of energy in the March survey. This tied with the lowest levels in Gallup's 17-year trend.

  • While not directly related to offshore drilling, less than half of Americans expressed support for opening up additional federal land for oil exploration in the March survey. This was down from 65% in 2014 when Gallup first asked the question.

Key Takeaway

Donald Trump's campaign promised to increase domestic oil and gas production by rolling back regulations. It is unclear whether this regulatory change will result in a boost to the industry anytime soon. Current market conditions for oil make it unlikely that energy companies will make significant investments to develop in the coastal waters that have been opened up in the near future. This, coupled with a public who favors environmental protection over energy development and the political opposition from coastal states, could slow any potential boost for the domestic oil and natural gas industry that may have come from opening new waters for drilling.


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