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Americans Support Greenhouse Gas Regulation Even If It Could “Substantially” Raise Energy Prices
Joe Romm, 1 May 09

A bunch of polls have come out that find the public supports strong climate action in spite of aggressive and widespread Republican fear-mongering about energy prices.

For instance, the new Washington Post/ABC poll of 1,072 Americans (here) found:

While majorities across the board support government regulation of greenhouse gases, it peaks among liberals (88%) and under 30s (80%), vs. 61% of conservatives and 64% of seniors. Support also ranges from 85% of Democrats, 65% “strongly,” to 64% of Republicans, 39% strongly. Concern about its cost is broader, and stronger, among those who’d presumably be hit hardest — lower-income adults.

Well, lower-income adults would be hardest hit if we didn't give them a tax cut equal to their higher energy costs, as Obama plans (see "EPA Analysis: “Returning the revenues in [a lump-sum rebate] could make the median household, and those living at lower ends of the income distribution, better off than they would be without the program.” And indeed consumers can end up further ahead by taking advantage of Federal, state, and utility programs to lower their energy bills with energy-saving strategies that the media hardly ever discusses or polls on.

Our side has been weaker and less consistent on messaging, which makes these poll results even more remarkable. The public seems to have absorbed the Republican arguments and not been persuaded. If you read the details of the poll, you'll see that immediately after the regulation question, people were asked the cost question --; "How concerned are you that federal regulation of greenhouse gases could substantially raise the price of things you have to pay" (with 77% saying they are concerned).

Americans appear to fully understand the worst-case consequences of what they are supporting. Imagine how the polling will ultimately turn out when President Obama and his team actually launches an all out messaging blitz on energy and climate action, with a tax cut for the poor and middle class, with aggressive strategies to lower their energy bills and create green clean energy jobs, and with a clear message of the cost to Americans of inaction.

A new NBC/WSJ poll of 1,005 Americans (here) asked the question more directly, and also found the public supports strong action in spite of the cost:

...please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of this proposal:

Charging a fee to companies that emit greenhouse gases, which might result in higher utility bills, and using the money to provide tax cuts for middle-income families

Aprove 58%
Disapprove 35%

Would you approve or disapprove of a proposal that would require companies to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming, even if it would mean higher utility bills for consumers to pay for the charges? Approve 53 Disapprove 40

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal only reported the second question's numbers (here).

Back in March, NPR found similar results (here, slide 18) even when testing the GOP's (dishonest) message against the Democrat's message:

“Next, I'm going to read you some pairs of statements. After I read each pair, please tell me which statement comes closer to your own view, even if neither is exactly right.”

“On the issue of the budget and energy... ”

"Republicans say the Democratic budget creates a huge new tax on energy that will send American jobs overseas to places like China and India, and raise taxes on anyone who uses electricity or drives a car. America needs to develop alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and biofuels and tap proven energy reserves here at home. But energy taxes that fall disproportionately on the poor and middle class are unfair and wrong."

"Democrats say President Obama's budget will help build a clean energy economy that creates jobs, kick starts new businesses and cuts our dependence on foreign oil. We're falling behind Germany and Japan in renewable energy and it's time for America to lead again. The plan caps global warming pollution, makes corporate polluters pay a fee and rewards alternative energy like wind and solar while cutting taxes for the middle class."

Significantly, the Democratic message beat the Republican message 53% to 42% -- even though the Republican message contains the Big Energy Lies, that Republicans support wind and solar (see "care about the poor and middle-class and support policies that would help them, and the untrue claim that this is a huge new tax on energy.

Indeed, what is particularly surprising about the first two polls is that they have been conducted after saturation messaging fearmongering by conservatives on the energy price issue, but not terribly strong messaging by our side on tax cuts (which aren't yet in Waxman-Markey) or energy-efficiency or the cost of inaction.

Again, imagine how the polling will turn out when President Obama and his team actually launches an all out messaging blitz on energy and climate action.

This piece originally appeared in Climate progress.

Photo credit: flickr/borman818, Creative Commons License.

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I guess the desired clean energy legislation can be compared to the promising 'public health care plan'. the prospective competition between the sustainable energy and conventional might usher in positive effects along the way.

Posted by: hsr0601 on 1 May 09

I think these polls are correct in the fact that the public is becoming more and more aware of the necessity to do something about environmental change and deterioration. Although society breeds us to be reactive and short sighted, awareness is key to changing our lifestyle approach and saving this planet. I wonder what major educational resources are out there for this

Posted by: tom on 6 May 09

After this post I started to do some research on what is out there on the web in terms of major educational projects and ran across this website:

Its an expedition that is set to begin this November, led my a man named Andrew Regan. I think what they are doing in terms of research, and pioneering more environmentally friendly ways to traverse the arctic, is pretty cool.

Posted by: tom on 13 May 09

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