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Gingrich Misrepresents Public Opinion And Likely Results Of Offshore Drilling

Reported by Ellen - June 19, 2008 -

In Part 2 of his two part discussion about lifting the ban on offshore drilling for oil, FOX News contributor Newt Gingrich gave the false impression that the public supports such a measure based on a misleading poll commissioned by his American Solutions for Winning The Future website. Similarly, he distorted the likely outcome of such drilling by suggesting that prices would come down as soon as the drilling begins and that at the same time, “all those folks in the Middle East (will) begin to realize the U.S. isn’t going to need ‘em very much any longer.” With video.

In his time with Gingrich, Alan Colmes asked, “What do you make of the fact that McCain has flip-flopped on (offshore drilling), on the eve of an election. (Florida Governor) Charlie Crist – I don’t know if he’s looking for a job in the administration – suddenly he changes his point of view. Are these flip-flops or is it OK because they wind up in a position you support?”

Gingrich said, “Wait a second. Wouldn’t you like to have political leaders who listen to the American people? The American people by 71-18 in a poll we did at American Solutions a week ago, by 71-18, they want Congress to take steps to lower the price of gasoline and electricity rather than taking steps that for global climate reasons would raise the cost of electricity and gasoline. That’s 4-1, Alan. Now, don’t you think that’s pretty smart of politicians?”

Unfortunately, Colmes’ time was up so he never had the opportunity to respond. But I’d say that what's really pretty smart is how Gingrich just spun the flip-flop. In the first place, Americans do not support offshore drilling by 4 to 1. One question Gingrich’s poll asked was:

Recently, the price for a barrel of oil hit an all-time high. Some people have suggested that, to combat the rising cost of energy and reduce dependence on foreign energy sources, the United States should use more of its own domestic energy reserves, including the oil and coal it already has here in the United States. Do you support or oppose this idea?

Not surprisingly, the results were that 81% supported it, 16% opposed it.

The question did not mention off-shore drilling and also implied (at least to me) that solar, wind and geothermal power could easily be included in “domestic energy reserves.” Also, the phrase “oil and coal (the US) already has here” makes it easy to forget that somebody has to go drilling for them. Furthermore, in other questions, the poll found that environmental concerns are still very important to Americans.

The question Gingrich was likely referring to in his conversation with Colmes was this one:

Which of the following plans of action do you MOST support to lower energy prices for U.S. consumers? [ROTATE] Using U.S. domestic energy sources, such as clean coal and oil, even if it means drilling off our coasts and in Alaska, and offering tax credits for american businesses that develop new energy solutions. (69%)

Not using U.S. domestic energy sources, such as clean coal and oil off our coasts and in Alaska, and instead using legal systems available to sue OPEC, the cartel of foreign oil-producing countries which provide most of the world’s oil, to increase the oil supply (18%)

Gee, even I'd pick the former.

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked a much more neutral question: Which one of the following actions do you most support as a way of addressing the rise in energy and gas prices? Encourage the development of wind and solar power. Open up protected areas in Alaska for oil and gas exploration. Encourage American consumers to conserve energy. Encourage off-shore exploration for oil and natural gas. Encourage the construction of nuclear power facilities." Wind and solar was the winner, with Alaska second, conservation third and exploration fourth. Nuclear power was last.

Hannity began his part of the discussion by responding to a point Colmes had made earlier, suggesting that oil companies should drill on the 68 million acres of land they already have. “This is the environmentally-fed talking point that they gave Harry Reid,” Hannity said. He dubiously claimed that the “vast majority of those areas that they’re talking about don’t have oil under them. That’s why they’re not drilling there. We’ve got to drill in the areas that we know that have it.”

In fact, Gingrich had just stated in the prior segment that we don’t know that the places Bush is proposing to drill have much oil. Nevertheless, he agreed with Hannity now and added, “An oil executive said the other day, ‘The reason we call it exploration is we don’t know.’ And you’ve got look in a lot of places.”

After taking another swipe at his fellow Americans (“Our friends on the left are saying, ‘Oh, no. We don’t have to do anything. Just shut up and pay the extra money.’”) Gingrich made another misleading statement:

“The morning we start developing, prices start dropping and all those folks in the Middle East begin to realize the U.S. isn’t going to need ‘em very much any longer.”

In reality, Gingrich must know that it will be decades before prices would start dropping and even then, probably by an insignificant amount.

Meanwhile, once again, no real attention was paid to the possibility of wind or solar development nor the role of the devalued dollar in the whole mess.