Recently polling released by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication reinforces what we’ve been saying for a long time now: there is broad support for clean energy, as well as for making dirty energy actually pay their tab, instead of having us pick up the check for their polluted air and water, oil spills, and other damages to public health, national security, and the environment.
A few of the main findings from the new polling illustrate what we’ve been saying:
- 92% of Americans think developing clean energy should be a priority
- 79% support funding more research into renewable energy sources
- 76% support tax rebates for purchase of solar panels
- 76% support for regulating CO2 as a pollutant
- 61% support making fossil fuel industry responsible for “all the hidden costs of their products”
- 61% support for a “revenue-neutral carbon tax.”
Not only is support among the American public for clean energy broad, it ranges across the political spectrum. For instance, the new polling finds that “[a]mong registered voters, 96 percent of Democrats and Independents, and 84 percent of Republicans think clean energy should be a priority.” In addition, a majority (54%) of Republicans support “holding the fossil fuel industry (coal, oil and natural gas) responsible for ‘all the hidden costs we pay for citizens who get sick from polluted air and water, military costs to maintain our access to foreign oil, and the environmental costs of spills and accidents.'”
These poll results are highly encouraging, but they also seem to contradict a recent Las Vegas Sun piece, which argued that renewable energy has become "fodder for the culture war,” with hostility by conservative politicians, think tanks, and media outlets like Fox News -- hostility that is “as much emotional as empirical,” just like “gay marriage and National Public Radio.” We were curious what the Yale/GMU pollsters thought about this apparent contradiction, so we contacted the authors. One of them – Professor Edward Maibach of GMU’s Center for Climate Change Communication – responded as follows:
Clean energy does indeed appear to be on the horizon of the culture wars, but the question is: why? It certainly isn't the will of the people, because large majorities of the American people are strongly in favor of renewable energy.
This response only reinforces our bottom line conclusion on this entire subject: It’s time for politicians to listen to the American people, and not to the fossil fuel interests and their paid minions. As for the American people, their preferences couldn’t be any more clear: wean us off our fossil fuel addiction, make the polluters pay to clean up their own messes, and transition us into a clean energy economy ASAP! That’s about as clear and overwhelming a message as politicians are ever likely to hear. The only question is, when will they act on it?