There's been remarkably little opinion polling on shale considering the overwhelmingly negative press it gets. But a recent poll from Pennsylvania shows that even in a state that allegedly is being poisoned and thousands losing their homes if you read some of the anti-shale site, people are firmly for shale and firmly for taxing it:
Pennsylvanians want natural gas producers to keep drilling in the Marcellus Shale by a 2-to-1 ratio, but want that output subject to a severance tax, also by 2-to-1, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
"'Drill, baby, drill,' is the call from Pennsylvania voters, and 'tax, baby, tax' is the follow-up as voters see natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale as an economic plus more than an environmental negative," Quinnipiac University Polling Institute Assistant Director Tim Malloy said in a statement Tuesday. "They also see added taxes on gas drillers as one of the few acceptable ways to help balance the budget."
Conducted last week, pollsters surveyed 1,277 registered Pennsylvania voters, and found support for drilling and a tax on that production was strong across party lines and regions.
This doesn't sound like a state where the catastrophists are winning the argument.
Statewide, Pennsylvanians say that the environmental impacts of gas drilling are outweighed by the economic benefits 63% to 30% with the strongest support coming from Republican men, but even Democrats and women favored shale gas extraction over a ban on drilling.
Support for gas drilling was the weakest, 55% in favor, in the northeast corner of the state, a hotbed of extraction over the last two years, and strongest in the northwestern corner, 69% in favor, which is still waiting to see drilling take off.
In short, this is one more reality check that has to be considered. Why is shale preceded by the adjective "controversial" so often? Why does the press act if there is some popular crusade of citizens against polluters, when the reality is the opposite. Let's not forget that last week the shale gas protesters in Pennsylvania's State Capitol Harrisburg could only muster a few hundred people, and the group split into a small faction led by Josh Fox who could only muster 75 or so people.
A minority can make noise, and has a right to. But the media needs to realise that minority shouldn't be given an exclusive right to the debate.