Editor’s Notebook: When It Comes to Polls You’ve Got to Question the Questions

June 2015, Vol. 242, No. 6

Jeff Share, Editor

After 25 years of covering the oil and gas industry, I can still find time for a good laugh; either that or shake my head in frustration, yank out some gray hairs and ask, “why”? The other day I was perusing emails when this grabbed my attention. “Poll: Key Primary Voters Support Arctic Drilling, Say Energy is Important Issue in 2016 Race.”

There’s this energy advocacy group called Consumer Energy Alliance that’s connected to a Washington, D.C. lobbyist group, HBW Resources. David Holt is managing partner of HBW Resources and happens to be president of the CEA. They hired pollsters to survey voters of the first three primary states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, about their views on energy policy. Well, sort of. The surveys ask a dozen questions, mostly focusing on voting preferences for 2016. Hint: they all think Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in on the Democratic side.

Toward the end of the survey, they are asked whether they support Arctic offshore energy production, and if energy will be an important issue in the election. It turns out that 52-32% of Iowa voters support Arctic production; 54-35% in New Hampshire, and 63-25% in South Carolina. Naturally most agreed that energy will be an important factor in the 2016 election; based on a yes or no answer, what would you expect people to say?

According to CEA’s press release, the results show voters are “keenly aware of energy issues and the importance of those issues in a candidate’s policy program.” Really? Why wouldn’t Iowans support Arctic drilling? Is there any state that is more landlocked? Why not ask them if they support the proposed pipeline carrying Bakken oil through their state to the Gulf Coast? Why not ask them if they would still support increased oil production from Alaska if it would affect ethanol subsidies?

Onto New Hampshire, which has some of the coldest weather and highest energy costs in the country. I’m sure they favor Arctic development, being that they are at others’ mercy to supply the oil and gas needed to keep them alive. So, why not ask them why they’re fighting the proposed North East Energy Direct natural gas pipeline project?
Now let’s move down to South Carolina with its lovely beaches where again I wonder if the locals really understand offshore drilling. The poll indicates they do; so wouldn’t a reasonable follow-up question have been, “do you also support drilling off the coast of South Carolina?”

While I appreciate those who truly support our industry, I question the merits of this “poll” and whether I would want them representing my interests on energy-related topics. At the same time, I can’t say that the CEA is worse than a lot of the opposition the industry faces these days. Ask the president, who’s angered some in his own party by approving Shell’s bid to drill offshore Alaska.

Let’s poll Florida where the beaches are even more pristine. That same day I got a news release about congressional representatives (all Democrats) joining companion legislation proposed by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to prohibit seismic testing along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Last July the Obama administration opened the Atlantic Ocean, from Virginia to Florida, for seismic testing as a prelude to possible future drilling. You don’t mess with Florida’s beaches for any reason. Instead of after Floridians about offshore drilling, a good question might be, “if you have no energy resources in your own state and you don’t want pipelines, how will you get to the beach?” Hitch a ride on the back of the first gator that comes along?

The pollsters should visit Texas to ask a really important question: Do you think the federal government is secretly planning to invade us? You’ve heard about Jade Helm 15, the special operations exercise spread over several Southwest states, including Texas. But is that what this is about? Is something sinister going on in or under those closed Walmart stores that we should know about?

One online conspiracy site suggests that “traditionally conservative areas may be a simulated target for future domestic operations,” while “preparing to implement martial law.” Fortunately for us, Gov. Abbott has directed the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm “[t]o address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe.”

If you don’t hear from me next month….