A new poll released by USA Today, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future indicates that support for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline may be waning while opposition is growing. The poll shows what we have seen happen around the country: as Americans learn more about the real risks tar sands poses to climate and water they conclude the pipeline is not in America’s national interest. The Keystone XL project would not only bring tar sands from Canada across the US heartland, threatening our farms, ranches and waters, it will drive expansion of the climate-polluting tar sands mining and drilling. We have seen the damage that climate change can do to our farms and communities and we know that we can’t afford its cost. A dirty energy project such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline does not make sense at a time when clean energy alternatives are providing jobs across America without the risks of oil spills and carbon pollution.
Of course, in comparing polls we know that there are differences in the questions, target groups and margins of error. But there is still value in looking broadly at what various polls say about the way people are viewing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The USA Today poll of 801 U.S. adults found that 56 percent support the pipeline which is lower than the roughly 65 percent support found in polls by other organizations, including one conducted by the Pew Research group in September 2013. The downward trend in support for the pipeline was already evident in December 2013 in a Bloomberg poll reporting only 56 percent favoring the pipeline. At the same time, the new numbers in opposition to the pipeline are considerably higher than in past polls, with 41 percent opposing in the USA Today poll over an earlier 30 percent in the Pew poll.
Comparing polls by the Pew Research Group, we see clearly that opposition to the pipeline has grown. Pew polling last year in April, July, and September shows an upward growth in opposition from 23 percent opposed to 30 percent from April to September 2013. Other polls support the higher opposition numbers of the last few months: the December 2013 Bloomberg poll reported 35 percent in opposition to the pipeline. And this is a trend line we are also seeing in Canada where polls also show support for the pipeline has eroded.
Without a doubt the public is mobilizing against tar sands expansion and its transportation in pipelines, by rail or by tanker in record numbers. Just last year, opponents to Keystone XL submitted over a million comments to the State Department. Tens of thousands people gathered on a chilly February morning to call on President Obama to reject the pipeline. Citizens groups are forming across the U.S. to oppose tar sands in the northeast, west coast, and Midwest. There is growing awareness by Americans about the risks tar sands poses to climate, health and water. The more the public learns about Keystone XL and tar sands expansion, the more they ask for clean energy alternatives. Once people learn Keystone XL is not a generic pipeline carrying conventional oil but instead that it will carry tar sands a uniquely corrosive and acidic mixture that will ruin water supplies when spilled. And when people learn that this pipeline is designed primarily for export to meet the need of foreign oil companies, they realize that Keystone XL serves the oil industry, not America’s national interest. A 2012 poll helps to make this case. In that poll, a majority of the public had supported by the project but when given arguments in favor and against the project, the majority opposed. The poll conducted by Hart Research followed President Obama’s rejection of the pipeline in January of that year.
In the end, the American public wants a clean and safe energy future. Americans are more and more concerned about dirty fuels. It is clear that tar sands isn’t good for our climate, air and water. And that is why a growing number of people agree that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline should be rejected.