In 2013, America became the world’s biggest producer of oil and natural gas, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.
The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” has allowed drillers to tap vast deposits of fossil fuels and in a major shift from just five years ago, the country is looking at becoming a net exporter of oil and natural gas. It has also sparked intense debate about the environmental costs and long-term economic benefits of resource extraction.
But a survey conducted by Oregon State, George Mason and Yale Universities found most Americans actually know very little – if anything – about fracking.
However, there are some exceptions. The survey found that residents in Pennsylvania, the fastest growing state for natural gas production, are more knowledgeable about the process, as are residents of New York, where the debate over whether to allow natural gas drilling continues.
The Associated Press reports of the 1,061 respondents, more than half of them reported having little or no knowledge of fracking; 60 percent said they had no opinion on the issue.
About 20 percent of respondents said they were opposed to fracking. Women were more likely to oppose fracking, as were those more familiar with the process. Opponents were apt to associate fracking with environmental degradation, hold egalitarian world views and get their news from newspapers.
Around 22 percent of those surveyed said they supported fracking. They tended to be older, better educated and politically conservative. Their primary news source was television, the survey found.
“In some areas of the country, including New York and Pennsylvania, people are more familiar with the issue but opinions are still divided as they try to balance the economic and energy benefits against environmental and community impacts,” Boudet said.