The pace of the North Dakota oil boom has become a topic of much debate of late in the wake of the Casselton train derailment, the Tioga pipeline oil spill and the fact that it’s an election year. NDGOP Chairman Bob Harms stirred controversy earlier this month when he told news reporters that maybe the oil boom should be slowed down.
North Dakota Democrats pounced on the comments, and launched an attack on their own on the credibility of the state’s top oil regulator Lynn Helms.
But how to North Dakotans feel about the pace of the oil boom? According to a press release from the North Dakota Petroleum Council (which we should take with a grain of salt given the source), North Dakotans are largely fine with it.
“Four of five North Dakotans statewide favor oil and gas development, according to a survey commissioned by the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC),” reads the press release that announced the polling. “The survey also found that 73 percent of North Dakotans agree benefits of oil and gas development outweigh the risks and that 83 percent believe oil and gas production should increase or stay the same.”
Those are some robust numbers in favor of oil production. An infogrpahic, also released by the NDPC, is below showing more poll results. Here are some interesting highlights.
Right Direction vs. Wrong Direction
Poll respondents in oil counties were a lot more likely to say the nation is headed in the wrong direction than respondents from the rest of the state (65% vs 71%), which isn’t surprising given that western North Dakota is seen as being the most conservative part of the state. But perhaps a bit more surprising is that a slightly lower number of people in oil counties say the state is headed in the right direction than the rest of the state (71% vs. 75%). Of course, over 70% approval of where the State of North Dakota is headed is good news for Republicans who are in charge, but the oil vs. non-oil disparity, as slight as it is, may be what Democrats are hoping to tap into for 2014.
According to the poll, 83% of North Dakotans outside of the oil patch strong favor oil development (49% strongly), but that drops to 80% in the oil patch (though 50% say they favor it strongly). Again, over 80% approval for oil development makes Demcorats and their anti-oil political platform a tough sell, but again we see a small manifestation of what may be a small amount of western North Dakota angst over oil impacts.
Strong majorities – 82% in oil counties and 83% in non-oil counties – support maintaining or increasing oil development.
More people in the oil patch (59%) say current oil regulations are “about right” than in the rest of the state (55%). About 25% in the oil patch, and 28% statewide, say regulations are too lax. That’s been consistent since about 2011.
More people outside of the oil patch than inside the oil patch see crime and oil spills as a problem, whereas more oil patch citizens than non-oil patch citizens see roads/infrastructure, traffic and housing as problems.
I think this graph speaks for itself: