News Types: Media Coverage

McCombs School of Business releases eighth annual national poll on public opinion about current energy issues

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AUSTIN — The McCombs School of Business released it’s eighth annual national poll on public opinion about current energy issues. The poll receives extensive news coverage within Texas and around the country. Its principal finding was thatartisan politics are polarizing Americans’ views of several controversial energy issues, including the Keystone XL pipeline and hydraulic fracturing, according to the latest version of The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll.

The nationwide online poll, conducted March 4–13, shows that 72 percent of Republicans who say they are familiar with Keystone XL support its construction, compared with only 28 percent of Democrats familiar with the project.

Overall, less than half (42 percent) of the 2,078 survey respondents are familiar with Keystone XL, the final segment of a pipeline system that runs from western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. Construction of this last phase, which has yet to be approved, has become a lightning rod for contentious public debate.

Nearly 2 out of 3 Republicans (62 percent) say they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who favors completion of Keystone XL, compared with only 29 percent of Democrats surveyed. That said, overall support among survey respondents for candidates who favor construction of the pipeline has declined, from 46 percent six months ago to 39 percent today.

“We’re seeing a continuing divergence of views on key energy issues that clearly tracks political party lines,” said UT Energy Poll Director Sheril Kirshenbaum.

Somewhat surprisingly, only 6 percent of the Democrats surveyed who are familiar with Keystone XL and oppose its construction cite climate change as a top concern. Among this group, environmental degradation is the top reason they oppose the pipeline (36 percent) followed by the risk of water contamination (14 percent).

Among Republicans familiar with Keystone XL who support its construction, respondents were equally split among greater energy independence (26 percent), job creation (25 percent) and lower energy prices (25 percent) as principal reasons they support the project.

Political affiliations also influence perceptions of hydraulic fracturing for domestic oil and gas production, which has increased dramatically during the past decade and is seen as a key contributor to lower oil prices. Among survey respondents familiar with the technology, 65 percent of Republicans support hydraulic fracturing, compared with only 28 percent of Democrats.

Just 44 percent of Americans say they are familiar with hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Among them, more survey respondents say they oppose it (44 percent) than support it (42 percent) for the first time.

Support for hydraulic fracturing on public lands also has declined. Among survey respondents familiar with the practice, 42 percent say its use should be banned on public lands, compared with 34 percent a year ago.

Again, political ideology appears to be a key determinant of respondents’ views, with 57 percent of Democrats supporting a ban of hydraulic fracturing on public lands, compared with only 23 percent of Republicans. Conversely, 56 percent of Republicans say hydraulic fracturing on public lands should be promoted, compared with only 23 percent of Democrats surveyed.

The UT Energy Poll showed strong support for allowing cities to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders, even if state law otherwise permits it. Among respondents familiar with fracking, 58 percent say cities should be permitted to outlaw its use, while only 25 percent say municipalities should not have the authority to ban it locally.

“At present, it appears a large majority of Americans think cities should have the right to decide if they want to ban fracking locally,” Kirshenbaum noted.

Other findings in the UT Energy Poll:

  • Seventy percent of respondents say that climate change is occurring. This includes 86 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans.
  • Sixty-six percent of consumers consider today’s gas prices high, down from 93 percent one year ago — although they don’t expect low prices at the pump to last very long.
  • Eighteen percent say job creation is their top priority in terms of federal tax spending, down from 36 percent when the question was asked for the first time in September 2011.

The UT Energy Poll was launched in October 2011 to provide an objective, authoritative look at consumer attitudes and perspectives on key energy issues. The survey is designed to help inform national discussion, business planning and policy development. Data from the poll were weighted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income based on U.S. Census Bureau figures, as well as propensity scores, to ensure the sample’s composition reflects the actual U.S. population.

Media contacts:

Sheril Kirshenbaum
(517) 763-2710

Gary Rasp
(512) 585-2084

Press Mentions:

1) Huffington Post:
2) Houston Chronicle:
3) Fort Worth Weekly:
4) Fort Worth Business Press:
5) Austin American-Statesman:
6) Texas Tribune:
7) Natural Gas Intelligence/Shale Daily:
8) A Nation Divided On Keystone XL:
9) The Olympian:
10) Fuel Fix:
11) Star-Telegram:
12)  Austin American Statesman:
13) Bloomberg:
14) Dallas Business Journal:
15) NBC:
16) Midland Reporter Telegram:
17) Midland Reporter-Telegram:
18) The Keene Sentinel:
19) The Daily Texan :

Melinda Taylor, “House votes to bar fracking bans by cities,” (Dallas Morning News)

In an article about the House’s move on April 17, 2015 to bar cities from banning fracking and placing other limits on oil and gas drilling after a debate that pitted a key state industry against communities’ desire for local control, the Dallas Morning News quoted KBH Energy Center Executive Director Melinda Taylor on how the bill would leave a legal avenue wide open for oil and gas companies to challenge even the most noncontroversial of ordinances. “It’s really cutting into the tradition of local power in Texas,” said Professor Taylor. “It will open the door for a slew of new lawsuits that are frankly unnecessary.”

David Spence “Texas Local Control Bills Rankle Muni League,” (NGI’s Shale Daily)

The NGI’s Shale Daily quoted Texas Law Professor David Spence in an article about the bills recently introduced in the Texas legislature intended to thwart local municipality interference with oil and gas drilling, provoking the ire of the Texas Municipal League. While oil and gas law in some other states explicitly mentions that it is the last word on regulation of such matters and preempts measures enacted by local jurisdictions, Professor Spence told NGI’s Shale Daily: “You don’t really see anything like that in the Texas oil and gas law,” he said. “You don’t see that kind of strong, explicitly preemptive language in the law in the way it’s drafted now, which is probably why, given the Denton ban, you’re starting to see bills in the legislature to make it clear that the state oil and gas law preempts local bans.”

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, “Moving Forward with Energy: A Conversation with Kay Bailey Hutchison,” (McCombs TODAY)

UT Energy Week concluded Feb. 19-20, 2015 with an inaugural symposium and gala hosted by the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business, a newly formed collaboration combining the resources and missions of energy initiatives from the McCombs School of Business and the School of Law at The University of Texas at Austin.

Named for former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the KBH Energy Center will sponsor research, host lectures and conferences, and develop innovative curriculum and learning opportunities leading to energy careers.

McCombs TODAY sat down to ask Senator Hutchison about the new center and her interest in driving energy innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

Kelly Haragan, “Legal groups help Hillcrest residents fight bridge proposal,” (KRIS Corpus Christi News)

The recent proposal to construct a new bridge to replace the Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi continues to face severe opposition from Hillcrest residents. Though the bridge proposal won’t require the demolition of homes, the overall impact has many residents looking to move. KRIS Corpus Christi News discusses the ongoing tussle in a recent article and quoted Texas Law Clinical Professor Kelly Haragan, who supports the views of the residents. Professor Haragan said “We do plan to challenge that decision unless there’s more mitigation that really addresses the concerns of the neighbors.”

Thomas McGarity, “Texas says federal plan for coal plant emissions is too harsh,” (San Antonio Express-News)

The San Antonio Express-News quoted Texas Law Professor Tom McGarity in an article about the recent federal proposal which calls for Texas to reduce its carbon emissions from coal plants by 39%. Although Texas says it shouldn’t be forced to make deeper emissions cuts than Kentucky and West Virginia (which would be required to make cuts of 20% and 18%, respectively), Professor McGarity opined that “Texas shouldn’t be scared of the target because the state has abundant energy sources other than coal.”