After hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil leaked from an aging pipeline last Friday, spewing thick black crude onto the green lawns and clean driveways of a housing development in suburban Arkansas, many wondered if the spill’s impact on public opinion might affect the Obama administration’s forthcoming decision on whether to greenlight the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
They can stop wondering.
According to a new survey of 1,500 Americans by the Pew Research Center, fossil-fuel companies hoping to transport tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas — what climate scientists are calling some of “the dirtiest oil in the world” due to its carbon density — don’t have much to worry about.
The poll found that 66 percent of the American people support the construction of the pipeline. Respondents gave their approval by wide margins and across political and ideological spectrums. Only liberals expressed stiff opposition to the pipeline while 82 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Democrats liked the idea. Even 60 percent of Millenniels, Americans under 30, say thumbs up.
The survey suggests that envinronmentalists who have mounted enormous protests in Washington and elsewhere in recent months against the proposed pipeline have much more work to do and that fossil-fuel firms and their allies in Congress have succeeded in obscuring the debate with specious science and millions of dollars in propoganda.
The upside is that more Americans (69 percent) agree climate change is happening, up from 57 percent four years ago. Morever, those who believe climate change is caused by human activity are nearing a majority (42 percent). And among those who believe global warming is man-made are a surprising number of Republicans — 27 percent of “liberal/moderate Republicans” say there is clear evidence of climate change and it is clearly caused by people.
Even so, fewer Americans believe climate change is a very serious problem, only a third. That’s down from a peak of 45 percent in 2007. Only 14 percent of Republicans think it’s a very serious problem. That’s 31 percent among independents, down from 39 percent last year. Concern among Democrats has also slipped from 56 percent in October to 48 percent now.