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US support declines for renewable energy: poll

Americans of all parties support the passage of Federal policies to support renewable energy, although the level is down from a baseline survey conducted two years ago.

The most positive response in the survey on climate and renewable energy was a showing of 85% support for funding of more research on solar and wind power, while 82% want tax rebates for people who buy solar panels or fuel-efficient vehicles.

Respondents also want programmes to teach Americans how to save energy (72%); regulating CO2 as a pollutant (71%); school curricula to teach children about the consequences and potential solutions to global warming (70%); signing an international treaty that requires the USA to cut carbon emissions by 90% by 2050 (61%); and establishing programmes to teach Americans about global warming (60%).

Renewable energy backing down

When asked if they are for or against funding more research into renewable energy sources, 41% said they support strongly and another 44% support somewhat, down from 54% and 38% on the same question in 2008. The 11% somewhat oppose and 4% strongly oppose renewable energy R&D funding compares with 6% and 2% in the baseline.

Asked about a requirement for electric utilities to generate at least 20% of their power from renewable sources “even if it cost the average household an extra US$100 a year,” 18% strongly support and 40% somewhat support, down from 31% and 41% in the earlier survey. The 21% somewhat opposing and 21% strongly opposing renewable energy shares for utilities have increased from the 2008 levels of 17% and 11%.

On support for tax rebates to people who purchase renewable energy sources such as solar panels or energy-efficient vehicles, the 32% rate for strongly support and 50% level for somewhat support compares with 38% and 47% in 2008; the 10% for somewhat oppose and 7% strongly oppose for renewable energy tax rebates is up slightly from the earlier 11% and 4% rates.

The poll also finds a 10-point drop in support for new nuclear reactors from 2008.

Cross party support for renewable energy

“Surprisingly, majorities of both Republicans and Democrats support many of these policies, including renewable energy research, tax rebates, regulating carbon dioxide, and expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas,” says Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale Project on Climate Change.

“Majorities in both parties support returning revenues from a cap-and-trade system to American households to offset higher energy costs, perhaps opening a pathway for Congressional action.”

About the survey

The national survey of 1001 adults was designed by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities, and conducted from 24 December to 3 January. Knowledge Networks claims the results are a nationally-representative sample with a sampling error of +/-3% with 95% confidence.

Although the survey was designed to elicit response on cap-and-trade legislation currently being considered by Congress, 60% of Americans say they have heard “nothing at all” about legislation and only 12% had heard “a lot.” When the concept is explained, 58% support the policy but support drops to 40% if energy costs increase by 50 cents a day.

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Energy infrastructure  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Wind power