Fox Skews Poll Question To Drum Up Support For Drilling

Fox's oil man, Eric Bolling appeared on America's Newsroom this morning to push, yet again, for increased domestic drilling. Guest host Rick Folbaum used the opportunity to push a new Fox News poll to back up Bolling's analysis telling him, “you're not alone when you say drill” :

RICK FOLBAUM (guest host): Now I know you. And I know that when it comes to government intervention, you're more of a hands-off kind of guy. But should the government do something to try to get these gas prices under control.

BOLLING: Absolutely, absolutely.

FOLBAUM: Like what?



BOLLING: Yeah, drill. It certainly won't affect a gallon of gasoline tomorrow, but it will affect the world gasoline and world crude oil markets that I'm talking about, right now. I have been over this 100 times, but when George Bush lifted the moratorium on offshore drilling, the prices tumbled. They went from $147 to $33, in six months. It wasn't a long time -- over a course of years, it was 6 months. It was dramatic and not because we got one single barrel out of the ground within that six-month period, it's because the policy was to drill more and that's really the only way we're going to get it. Especially with what's going on in japan. Now we are hearing Ed Markey in Massachusetts and Senator Lieberman and now Chuck Schumer here in New York, saying, hey, maybe we better rethink our nuclear policy. If you do that, that's own going to drive the price of oil straight up because If you're not going to use nukes you're going to use some form of oil, fossil fuel and that's more demand for that.

FOLBAUM: You're not alone when you say drill. Another Fox poll shows that 40% of Americans think that new drilling would be the best way to handle the crisis right now with gas prices on the way up. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/18/11]

However, those poll results Folbaum cites are based on a false premise that more drilling will significantly reduce the price of oil and gasoline -- a premise that even Fox's "very clearly partisan" analyst, Stuart Varney, has dismissed.

This latest Fox poll asked its respondents what they thought would be the “best action for the Obama administration to take on gas prices” and offered the following options to those surveyed:

  • Try to bring prices down by increasing domestic drilling
  • Try to bring prices down by opening strategic oil reserves
  • Allow prices to remain high to encourage alternate fuels and conservation
  • Do nothing and let gas prices rise or fall according to the market demands
  • Don't know

Unsurprisingly, respondents to Fox's poll supported efforts to lower gas prices with 40% advocating for increased drilling and 27% who supported opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Only 16% supported encouraging alternative fuels, which the Fox poll suggested would only occur if gas prices were allowed “to remain high.” Likewise, only 10% wanted to “let gas prices rise or fall according to the market demands.”

However, despite the repeated claims by the right-wing media, the fact of the matter is that increasing domestic production of oil would have no significant effect on gas prices in the short or long term. In fact, as a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute has argued, “we probably couldn't produce enough to affect the world price of oil.”

Newsweek's Ben Adler also points out that oil is a “fungible global commodity” and even if we produced enough petroleum in America to meet our demand, prices at the pump would still be subject to the fluctuations of the international market:

Oil, you see, is a fungible global commodity. The oil that one drills for in Texas powers a car the same way that oil from Kuwait does. So the price that Texans pay for oil is determined by global supply and global demand, not how much oil is drilled on the Gulf Coast.

In a market economy such as ours, opening an area for drilling does not mean that the U.S. government controls its destination. Shell and Chevron will be perfectly happy to sell their oil to China if Chinese drivers are willing to pay more than Americans. The U.S. could produce exactly as much gasoline as it consumes and it would still feel the effects of, say, a decision by Hugo Chávez or Vladimir Putin to stop selling any oil. If global supply drops precipitously, global prices will rise, and unless we plan on nationalizing the oil industry--a move I doubt either Democrats or Republicans will endorse--the fact that we are drilling for more oil near our shores won't protect us from the price shock.

Though Fox refuses to acknowledge it, whether we increase domestic production of oil, encourage alternative energies, or tap into the SPR, gas prices remain primarily influenced by global demand.

In addition, Bolling's claim that President Bush's decision to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling resulted in 2008's low oil prices is just plain false. As Media Matters has noted, numerous energy experts have debunked Bolling's claim, noting that the precipitous drop in gas prices was the result of decreased demand due to the economic downturn. Last week, Joseph M. Dukert of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Media Matters that this claim was “nonsense” and stated that “it was primarily the recession that drove [the price of oil] back down.”

Of course, pushing polling data that misrepresents the issue at hand is nothing new for Fox. When the network isn't creating its own leading questions or misrepresenting polling data to fit its narrative, Fox relies on the notoriously misleading polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports, an organization that has been widely criticized by polling experts.