What They’d Do for Cheaper Gas

So much for the polar bears. With gas prices still climbing, a new Gallup poll finds a majority of Americans now favor allowing oil companies to drill in U.S. coastal and wilderness areas where such activity has been banned. And that’s just one of the semi-drastic steps that have majority support now that gas is so expensive.

Fifty-seven percent of the poll’s respondents said they favor drilling in wilderness and coastal areas where it has been taboo. Fifty-eight percent want to see supplies released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Even more striking, 53 percent said they back imposition of price controls on gasoline. But a consumers aren’t so willing to see themselves inconvenienced in pursuit of lower gas prices or higher gas mileage: 56 percent oppose a return to the 55-mph speed limit that was imposed in response to gas shortages in the 1970s. An even larger majority, 79 percent, said they oppose rationing of gasoline, though some form of rationing would likely be a practical effect of the price controls a majority now favor.

For all their ire at Big Oil, Americans are less likely than they were a year ago to see “oil/gas companies gouging the public” as the chief reason gas prices are as high as they are. While 34 percent held that view in a similar poll last May, 20 percent subscribed to it in the new survey. Taking up the slack are increases in the number of people blaming speculators, the weak dollar, crude-oil prices and the lack of regulation — although each of these factors scored in single digits.