Over two-thirds of N.C. adults support drilling for oil off the state's coast, according to a poll released Monday, and most believe the idea could soon affect gas prices despite federal studies that suggest otherwise.
The Elon University poll found 69 percent of respondents supported oil exploration as close as three miles off North Carolina's shoreline. About 26 percent opposed it while the remainder were unsure or refused to answer.
The poll also found most people expect drilling to cut gas prices in the near future. About 14 percent expected that permitting it would lower prices within a year. Another 53 percent expected price relief within 10 years.
The federal government disagrees. A report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration last year found that new exploration in the Pacific, Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico would produce an extra 200,000 barrels of oil a day by 2030. But U.S. consumption is 100 times higher than that. Since oil prices are set on a worldwide market, the new oil would have an “insignificant” impact on prices, the EIA said.
Only 11 percent of respondents said drilling off North Carolina won't cut gas prices. Elon University Poll Director Hunter Bacot said that shows adults don't have all the facts on offshore drilling.
“It's being made into an issue and it's not completely understood,” Bacot said. “It sounds wonderful, but when you get down to it, there's a big disjoint between perception and reality.”
Three N.C. political candidates have shifted positions on drilling. Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Democratic rival Kay Hagan and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue initially raised economic and environmental concerns but are all now open to exploration.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory has publicly supported additional drilling since it became an issue earlier this year.