Poll: One in Five Will Drive Less After Gulf Oil Spill

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, May 6, 2010 (ENS) – One in five Americans responding to a new national poll said they plan to drive less after of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, about one in every eight respondents plans to stop buying British Petroleum, BP, gas altogether.

The survey, which polled 1,312 consumers across the country on Monday and Tuesday, found 20.1 percent said they will reduce their gas consumption in response to the oil spill, while 13.2 percent said they would stop buying BP gas.

“For years our research has shown America is a see-it-to-believe-it nation. Before we make changes, we need to see things with our own eyes or have a personal connection to something,” said Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group, an advertising agency based in Knoxville which conducted the study.

Birds fly over a band of oil from the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana. April 28, 2010 (Photo by Sean Gardner courtesy Greenpeace)

“If Americans start seeing a lot of oil-covered pelicans or dying dolphins, these numbers will likely go even higher,” she predicted.

The pollsters also found that the combined impact of the oil spill and the recent mine disaster in West Virginia has caused more than two in every five Americans surveyed, or 41.7 percent, to think about the “human and environmental costs” associated with their own energy consumption.

About three in 10 Americans, 28 percent, said the spill has made them dislike BP, but their “opinion might improve if they can do more to clean up the mess and make amends.”

One in five, 20.5 percent, said they now doubt BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” slogan and believe it is not really a green company.

There is good news for BP in the poll results – 37.5 percent of respondents said the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had not affected their opinion of the company in any way.

And 17.4 percent of those polled said it makes them “respect the company for taking responsibility for the accident and clean-up.”

To minimize the spread of oil, the U.S. Coast Guard, working with BP, local residents, and other federal agencies, conducted this controlled burn of oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. May 5, 2010. (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Justin Stumberg courtesy U.S. Navy)

More than a third of respondents, or 35.5 percent, said the spill “was a terrible accident, but our country’s need for domestic oil makes the possibility of such accidents an acceptable risk.”

Twenty-one percent said, “It was a terrible accident waiting to happen, and offshore drilling in the Gulf should be halted.”

Shelton said, “The jury is still out for BP in terms of its ability to move forward and start rebuilding its reputation as an environmentally responsible company. There is immense risk that consumers’ anger toward BP will grow as the damage to the ocean and coastline grows.”

“One of our recent studies showed driving is one of the hardest things for Americans to give up for the environment. Our lives are built around our cars,” Shelton added. “It may take a major disaster for us to change our driving habits, and, unfortunately, this may be that major disaster.”

BP is the responsible party and will be held accountable for the costs associated with the explosion and fire that sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico April 22, leaving five Gulf coast states from Texas to Florida facing an environmental and economic disaster.

BP had leased the rig from Transocean Ltd. and had finished drilling a test well 18,000 feet below the sea floor about 50 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana. On April 20, a contract crew from Halliburton was poised to close the well with a cement plug when the blowout occurred, leaving 11 of the 126 crewmembers aboard missing and presumed dead and 17 others injured.

A series of valves at the wellhead, called a blowout preventer, failed to function, allowing oil to gush unchecked from the broken wellhead at an estimated rate of at least 5,000 barrels a day.

As of May 5, the spill had spread across at least 4,000 square miles of the gulf, with at least 300 square miles of heavy oil contamination.

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