In his energy speech yesterday, Barack Obama took the time to slam the “drill, baby, drill” political movement as nothing more than an empty slogan, and a gimmick that wouldn’t solve our problems … while standing in front of his “Winning the Future” backdrop.  According to the latest survey from Quinnipiac, most Americans beg to differ.  By more than a 2-1 margin, Americans want new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, an effort hampered by the White House’s “permitorium” since the BP spill, and a plurality still support nuclear power as well:

On energy policy, American voters:

  • Support by a narrow 48 – 45 percent building new nuclear plants, but oppose 58 – 38 percent building new plants in their town or city;
  • Support 67 – 28 percent new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico;
  • Oppose 56 – 38 percent releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. …

“Some might find it surprising that despite the spike in gasoline prices American voters don’t think tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a smart idea.  They apparently are buying the argument that the current situation is not so serious that the big pool of petroleum the country has set aside for emergencies should be used.  And there is strong support for lifting the ban on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The NIMBY response on nuclear is disappointing, but not surprising.  That will make it more difficult for political momentum to expedite new plants, which to his credit Obama still publicly supports.  Watching a plant go critical in Japan will certainly shake confidence, but the design for plants today would actually increase safety and security in the nuclear-power infrastructure here — which is decades old but still provides around 19% of all electricity generated in the US.

Voters appear to have figured out the folly of raiding the SPR, too.  Obama didn’t actually endorse the idea of releasing oil from the reserve, but he didn’t categorically rule out the option, either.  That’s a gimmick that really does nothing to increase domestic supplies or act to keep long-term costs down; in fact, the US would have to refill the SPR down the road, which would once again drive up prices on the spot market.

Instead, Americans want increased domestic production, which will help in a number of ways. Just acting to expand exploration and production will create downward pressure on spot-market prices, as we saw in 2008.  Opening production across the board would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in an economy that sorely needs them, and expanding domestic production will eventually curb the transfer of capital to nations in the Middle East.  All of these would boost the American economy and keep fuel and energy prices from creating a stagflation effect as we saw in the 1970s.  Voters have figured it out; we’ll see if Obama can catch up to the electorate.