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Californians Oppose Fracking, but Some Could Be Bribed with Cheap Fuel

Almost half of Calfornians are opposed to more fracking in the state, according to a poll released Friday, but some of those opposed say they could be bought off with cheaper fuel. According to the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll, 45 percent of Californians opposed an increase in fracking in the state -- until pollsters reminded them of the possibility that fracking might lower the cost of gasoline and natural gas.

Once the possibility of cheaper fossil fuels was on the table, according to pollsters, support for fracking among California voters climbed to 56 percent, with 33 percent remaining opposed.

Fracking, an informal term for hydraulic fracturing, is a practice in which water, sand and grit, and a mixture of chemicals is injected into geological formations at high pressure to make it easier to extract gas and oil. Fracking is widely criticized for its apparent effects on groundwater, and health risks to people in the vicinity of the wells.

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There's some detail worth teasing out here. According to the press release, the two sets of numbers are ever so slightly apples-and-oranges. The 45 percent of opposed voters were opposed to an increase in fracking, while the 56 percent of economically fracking supporters merely agreed that fracking should remain legal. How many of the 56 percent of those voters that thought fracking should stay legal would okay an increase in the practice isn't clear.

According to that press release, even with the reminder about cheap gas Californians still favor strict regulations on the practice:

Opinion on fracking breaks down along demographic and geographic lines in the state. 60 percent or more of African-American, Latino, and Asian voters oppose the practice, compared to around 42 percent of White/Anglo voters. Support for the practice is heaviest in the drilling-rig-pocked Central Valley, much of which is underlain by the Monterey Shale -- a recent object of desire for the fossil fuel extraction set. It's estimated there are more than 15 billion barrels of oil in the Monterey Shale, essentially inaccessible without fracking.

Statewide, twice as many Democrats as Republicans support an outright ban on the practice -- 37 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Almost as many respondents who didn't list a party preference favor an outright ban as among Democrats: 34 percent.

1,500 registered Californian voters were surveyed for the poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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