Poll: Americans Back Federal Subsidies for Renewables, Not Fossil Fuels

NEWTON, Massachusetts, November 14, 2011 (ENS) – Leaders of the Asia-Pacific economies, including the United States, declared Sunday that they will phase out subsidies for fossil fuel industries. The decision is likely to be popular across the United States, according to a recent public opinion poll commissioned by the nonprofit Civil Society Institute.

Fossil fuel subsidies are opposed by respondents on a bipartisan basis, a survey of 1,049 Americans conducted October 21-24 by Opinion Research Corporation International for the Civil Society Institute has found.

In what ORC International senior researcher Graham Hueber called, “quite striking findings in the context of the 2012 election campaign, six in 10 those polled oppose “federal subsidies for oil and gas, coal, natural gas and other fossil fuel companies.”

This majority includes 59 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Independents, 59 percent of Democrats, and 59 percent of Tea Party members.

An even stronger majority of respondents, 77 percent, said they want the United States to make the investments needed to be a clean energy leader on a global basis.

Entergy’s coal-fired Independence power plant near Newark, Arkansas (Photo courtesy Entergy Arkansas)

The statement, “The U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies,” drew agreement from 65 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Independents, 88 percent of Democrats, and 56 percent of Tea Party members.

Only 13 percent of those polled are in favor of concentrating federal energy subsidies on the coal, nuclear power and natural gas industries.

“Americans of all political stripes have moved ahead of Washington and want our nation to make smarter choices about cleaner and safer sources of power,” said Pam Solo, founder and president of the Civil Society Institute.

Based in Newton, Massachusetts, the independent CSI think tank receives no direct or indirect support of any kind from any energy-related company, organization or related individual, says Solo, who believes that “Common sense is the driving force in American opinion.”

“Americans believe that the energy industries have an undue influence over decisions made by Washington. They want leadership and problem solving from Washington for a clean energy future,” she said.

In addition to their resistance to government subsidies to fossil fuel companies, nuclear reactor loan guarantees also were opposed on a bipartisan basis by survey respondents.

More than two out of three disagree that, “Taxpayers and ratepayers should provide taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear power reactors in the United States through proposed tens of billions in federal loan guarantees for new reactors.” This majority includes 65 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents, 68 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Tea Party backers.

Emerson Electric’s 7,800-square-foot rooftop solar array on a data center in St. Louis is the largest in Missouri, opened 2009. (Photo courtesy Emerson Electric)

Instead, most respondents want the United States to shift federal loan guarantee support from nuclear power to wind and solar energy.

About seven in 10, including 55 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Independents, 84 percent of Democrats, and 47 percent of Tea Party backers, strongly or somewhat support “a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors and towards clean renewable energy such as wind and solar.”

A strong majority want the country to make the investments needed to be a clean energy leader on a global basis. More than three in four agree that, “The U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.”

Hueber said, “One clear message of this survey is that there is no clear Old Fuel Constituency in the sense of a large number of unified Americans who favor fossil fuels and nuclear power over wind and solar power.”

“In fact, Republicans and Tea Party supporters who might seem like the most logical place for such a constituency are somewhat more likely than others to support federal subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power, but they also would prefer development of cleaner sources of energy,” he said.

Few of those surveyed dismiss a connection between extreme weather events and climate change, the pollsters found. Just 17 percent think that “climate change is not a factor” in at least 10 weather related disasters caused by extreme weather to date in 2011, involving $1 billion or more each in damages, now totaling about $45 billion.

Just 45 percent of Tea Party backers fall into the climate change denial camp on this question, said Hueber.

Few of those polled agree that, “Congress and the President should stay out of the energy markets and let private enterprise have a free hand in picking energy sources and setting prices.” Only about one in four, including 47 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Independents, 11 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Tea Party supporters agree.

Solo said, “Americans understand that we can no longer have our economy and environment tethered to old energy solutions that are unsafe, unhealthy and simply unable to meet our long-term needs.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.