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Do Americans approve of Obama's energy plan?

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at an oil and gas production fields on federal lands March 21, 2012 near Maljamar, N.M. Obama spoke on expanding domestic oil and gas production.

Kai Ryssdal: The White House energy road show made a stop in Cushing, Okla., today. The president was talking energy independence and the Keystone XL pipeline at the crossroads of the American oil network. Cushing's where prices for U.S. crude get settled. Today, by the way: $105.47 a barrel.

But as the president acknowledged when we talked to him yesterday, it's a certain derivative petroleum product that consumers are really interested in. And so for today's Attitude Check, our partnership with Gallup, what Americans really want out of a White House energy policy.

Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief of Gallup. He's here with us every week. Frank, good to talk to you again.

Frank Newport: Good to be with you, Kai.

Ryssdal: So we, as you know, had the president on the broadcast yesterday; we went out to Nevada to talk to him. Asked him about gas and energy prices, and what he can do to get those prices off the $4-a-gallon mark. He said, you know what, there is no silver bullet, and then he said this:

Barack Obama: If we've only got 2 percent of the world's oil reserves and we're using 20 percent of the world's oil, then the math is not going to add up unless we also develop the kinds of new technologies that are represented by this solar panel field out here.

So the question is: What do Americans think? Do we want 'drill baby drill,' which the administration has been doing to some degree, or do they want renewables?

Newport: In some ways, they want it all.

Ryssdal: We're Americans, and we want it all, yeah.

Newport: Actually, the president has said that. He said there's no silver bullet, we need to do a lot of different things, and sure enough, that's where the public comes down. Let me tell you why I say that, Kai. When we do give people a choice, should we emphasize oil and gas production or alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, just a straight tradeoff -- it's 59 to 34 in favor of the latter.

Ryssdal: Say that again: 59 to 34 in favor of?

Newport: Of the alternative energy sources such as solar and wind. So that would fit right in, from what President Obama told you in that interview, Americans tilt in that direction.

Ryssdal: Do they, I don't know if buy, but do they appreciate the role of market forces in oil and that we're in a global economy when it comes to buying crude oil?

Newport: Well that's a very highfalutin question. I don't know. We haven't asked the public in exactly those words, but we did ask the public: Do you think that there is something that the president and Congress can do that will actually affect the costs of gasoline? And 65 percent said yes.

Ryssdal: You knew what the question should be, even if I asked it wrong. But anyway, 65 percent said yes.

Newport: That's right. And then we also said: Should Congress and the president -- and we put the word "immediately" in there -- take immediate action to try to control the price of gas, and 85 percent said yes on that. So even though if President Obama, as you talked to him, in his heart of hearts knows that he really can't do a lot, he's absolutely doing the right thing to try to talk about it, because the public expects him and Congress to at least take some action to look like they're doing something to try to affect the price of gas.

Ryssdal: Quickly Frank, on the way out: The president announced he's going to fast-track the bottom half of the XL pipeline, the Keystone XL pipeline, the part that goes from Cushing, Okla., which is where he was today. Do we want that, do Americans want more oil pipelines?

Newport: They do. The big majority of Americans said yes, approve the XL pipeline.

Ryssdal: This is fascinating. So that bit you said up at the top that Americans want everything -- we really do. We want the XL pipeline, we want renewables, we want the whole smash.

Newport: That's right. And we also want apple pie and motherhood.

Ryssdal: Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief at Gallup. The segment we do with them every week is called Attitude Check. Frank, thanks a lot.

Newport: Good talking to you.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.

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