Polls and numbers in NC

So, last week at the public hearing on the DENR shale gas draft study, the executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council quoted a poll done (commissioned?) by American Petroleum Institute that claimed “75% of North Carolinians support increased production from shale gas” {my paraphrase}. Looking at the actual report, I don’t actually see reference to anything that had a 75% result. Here are the results:

The telephone poll of 600 likely North Carolina voters found that large majorities agree that more U.S. oil and natural gas development could lead to more American jobs (92 percent), help reduce consumer energy costs (82 percent), deliver more revenue to the government (73 percent), and increase the nation’s energy security (86 percent). Fifty-two percent support hydraulic fracturing to access domestic resources and believe the process is safe, creates jobs and helps America meet its energy needs by keeping energy costs low. Seventy-two percent also support exploration and drilling off the coast of North Carolina to access oil and natural gas.

52% support hydraulic fracturing AND believe the process is safe and creates jobs. I am very curious to hear how the question was posed, but 52% is a significant difference from 75%, and I feel that is a very disingenuous representation of the opinions of ‘likely voters’ (I won’t even ask who the likely voters were, nor what exactly they were asked, but both of those details may be very illustrative). Whether hydraulic fracturing can be be done safely is up for discussion still as research and regulation are updated weekly on the subject. The UT-Austin report cited no direct causation of groundwater contamination for the act of fracturing the rock, however, the same report cited problems with the associated activities of well development, materials storage and transportation and treatment. The jobs aspect of this is much more questionable, and perhaps easier to put a finger on. The total number of jobs estimated from shale gas development in NC is 2710 (see the DENR shale gas study, section 5B, pages 194-195). And that is direct, indirect, and induced jobs over the span of 7 years of development connected to 368 wells drilled – an average of 387 jobs a year. Yes, these are not insignificant, but this does not seem like the large job generator that the rhetoric would lead you to believe.

Meanwhile, this poll slipped my attention week before last, but it seems that the NC General Assembly is unpopular. With a 15% approval rating, I will be very eager to see how they accept both the formal report and recommendations from their professional staff at DENR, and the public critique to expand the time and scope of that report. Stay tuned.

BT

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