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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF RISK                               ASSOCIATED WITH OFFSHORE OIL DEVELOPMENT


Principal Investigator: Eric R.A.N. Smith (UCSB)


 

Project Objectives

 

The goal of this project is to design a set of public opinion surveys and news media content analysis methods in preparation for a time series analysis of NIMBY responses to proposed offshore oil development projects along the Santa Barbara coast in California.  Current oil-lease holders are considering a number of new drilling projects.  This project will prepare a set of methods to study the publicís reaction to the debate surrounding these proposed projects.

 

Summary of Research

 

We focused on examining NIMBY effects and attitudes toward drilling for oil and gas in national forests.

We first examined the effect of living in the proximity of an oil well on attitudes toward the oil industry and the risks associated with oil drilling.  Although we searched for Nimby ("Not in My Backyard") effects in several different ways, using two data sets from 1998 and 2002, we found nothing.  Controlling for other causes of attitudes, we found that people who live near oil-drilling sites were not more likely than people living elsewhere to oppose drilling, to believe that drilling is risky, or to distrust the oil industry.  To the contrary, despite its anti-oil reputation Santa Barbara residents in 1998 were actually more likely to support oil drilling, to believe that it is safe, and to trust the oil industry than people living elsewhere in the state.  These results suggest the previous work on the Nimby syndrome may have mischaracterized it.  The results of this work were presented in "Public Opinion about Energy Development: Nimbyism vs. Environmentalism" (with Juliet Carlisle and Kristi Michaud), a paper delivered at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Phoenix, Arizona, May 13-16, 2004.

We also examined public attitudes toward drilling for oil and gas in California's parks and public lands.  We found that attitudes toward oil development in forest lands are very similar to attitudes toward offshore oil development in almost every respect.  These findings suggest that the Bush administration's efforts to open up more national forests to oil development may run into the same sort of political problems that confront attempts to drill off the California coast.  We prepared a paper describing these results, "Public Support for Oil and Gas Drilling in California’s Forests" (with Juliet Carlisle and Kristi Michaud).  The paper has been submitted to the University of California Energy Institute as a working paper, and submitted to a journal for  publication.

 

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