Winning the Oil Drilling Debate

Isaiah J. Poole

Earlier this week, MoveOn’s Tom Matzzie raised the alarm about the success the alliance of conservatives and Big Oil has had in convincing voters that massive amounts of new drilling for oil is essential to solve our energy crisis. And he was right to.

As he pointed out:

In February, Pew asked the public in a poll whether they favor drilling in the Arctic refuge. At that time 42 percent favored and 50 percent opposed. Now, in July, 50 percent favor drilling and only 43 percent oppose. That’s a 12-point change since the February survey and a 28-point swing since a March 2002 Gallup poll (where 35 percent favored and 56 percent opposed).

The shift is something to be concerned about — progressives are losing ground with the public on drilling. These are alarming gains in sympathy for the plans of Big Oil.

The facts are on the side of progressives, but conservatives have seized the initiative on framing the issue as one of increasing the supply of American oil to lower prices—even though the government’s own data concludes that drilling in places such as the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve would have negligible impact on prices, and we wouldn’t see that impact until well past 2020.

The Campaign for America’s Future’s latest issue alert on oil drilling offers ways to blunt the headway conservatives have made in the oil debate, complete with sources for facts that progressives can use in the debate.

It concludes that there are some short-term measures that the government can take to ease the impact of high oil prices, but perhaps the important point is that investments in energy efficiency and in alternative energy sources would yield far more benefits more quickly than opening environmentally sensitive land to oil drilling—especially when there are 68 million acres already available to oil companies that have yet to be fully used.

NOTE: This alert is the first one published in our redesigned Making Sense web section, where you will find our archive of issue alerts and related resources.

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