N.C. pins blame for gas prices on oil companies, foreign nations

With parts of the state seeing gas prices top $4 per gallon, a majority of North Carolinians are pointing the finger of blame for recent price hikes straight at oil companies and the foreign countries that produce oil, according to results from the latest Elon University Poll.

At the same time, more than three quarters of respondents believe the nation should rely more on solar and wind power to meet the country’s future energy needs.

The poll, conducted March 26-29, 2012, surveyed 534 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.24 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones. The Elon University Poll does not restrict respondents by voter eligibility or likelihood of voting.

Respondents were asked how much blame, with “1” being “no blame at all” and “5” being “a great deal of blame,” each of the following deserves for the recent increase in gas prices. The total percentage of respondents who answered either “4” or “5” were:

  • Oil Companies: 71 percent
  • Foreign Countries That Produce Oil: 58 percent
  • The Policies of the Obama Administration: 42 percent
  • The Policies of Democrats in Congress: 41 percent
  • The Driving Habits of American Consumers: 40 percent
  • The Policies of Republicans in Congress: 35 percent
  • Environmental Regulations: 34 percent

“It’s no surprise that North Carolinians are looking for someone to blame. Big oil and the oil-producing countries are easy targets because they produce and deliver the product to us,” said John Robinson, director of communications for the Elon University Poll. “Behind them come the Democrats in power in Washington. But we don’t spare ourselves: 40 percent of respondents said we have met the enemy and he is us.”

Respondents were read a list of potential energy sources and were asked whether the nation should rely on them more or less to meet its future energy needs.

  • Solar Power (85 percent more / 13 percent less)
  • Wind Power (80 percent more / 16 percent less)
  • Natural Gas (70 percent more / 22 percent less)
  • Nuclear Power (42 percent more / 50 percent less)
  • Coal (30 percent more / 63 percent less)
  • Oil (25 percent more / 72 percent less)

“As North Carolinians deal with higher gasoline prices, it is telling that they are looking to renewable sources – solar and wind, rather than oil and coal – for the future energy needs,” Robinson said. “It’s worth noting that natural gas ranks high as the debate over the use of fracking heats up.”

Pollsters also asked questions related to the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” where high-pressure, chemically treated water is forced into the ground to extract natural gas. More than half of respondents – 57 percent – said they don’t know enough about the issue to either support or oppose the practice in North Carolina.

  • 21 percent said they approve of “fracking”
  • 22 percent said they oppose it

Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they pay at least some attention to the issue in the news, while 45 percent said they pay “not very much” attention of “none at all.”

“The General Assembly could well take up a bill soon that would permit natural gas production through the use of fracking,” Robinson said. “What our poll indicates is that most people don’t know enough about the process to have an opinion on whether it’s good or bad.”