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Public split over elimination of U.S. energy subsidies, poll finds

This news story was published on April 26, 2012.
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By Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times –

The American public is divided about whether to eliminate federal subsidies for any form of energy and is giving less support to nuclear power and U.S. funding of renewable energy, a new poll has found.

Fifty-four percent of respondents opposed doing away with subsidies for oil, gas, coal, nuclear or renewable energy, while 47 percent favored the idea. Support for building more nuclear power plants has fallen dramatically, to 42 percent from 61 percent in 2008.

The Yale-George Mason University poll being released Thursday found that 76 percent of Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas pollutant and that two-thirds believe the U.S. should pursue policies to reduce its carbon footprint.

Support for federal funding of renewable energy appears to be slipping, perhaps in response to the bankruptcy of the solar manufacturing company Solyndra, which had received federal loan guarantees.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans support federal funding of renewable energy research, but those who say they strongly support it has dropped to 36 percent, down from 53 percent in 2008. In addition, those who say they oppose the funding has more than doubled to 21 percent, up from 8 percent in 2008.

A handful of recent polls have identified renewable energy as a wedge issue, particularly among Republicans.

“All of this is politicized — climate change is politicized; that’s part of the real problem right now,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, a Yale research scientist who was among those who analyzed the poll results.

“Back in 1997, Democrats and Republicans were not that far apart on this issue,” he said. “The gap between the two parties has widened and widened ever since.”

Leiserowitz said public support for renewable energy remains strong, despite the slippage. Some of that support has come at the expense of the oil and gas industry, even as the poll found that 62 percent of Americans favor offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters. That number, too, has decreased.

In a nod to the political season, pollsters asked respondents if they were likely to support a candidate who advocated increasing taxes on coal, oil and natural gas, if the federal income tax was reduced by the same amount — in what is sometimes called a tax swap. About 61 percent said they would be more likely to favor a candidate who supported such a carbon tax, while 20 percent said they would be less likely.

Support for the revenue-neutral tax falls along predictable party lines: 51 percent of Republicans say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported a carbon tax, compared with 71 percent of Democrats. Among independents or those with no party affiliation the figure was 60 percent.

The online survey has a 3 percent margin of error.

A Pew Research Center study last month found that Americans still consider developing alternative sources of energy a higher priority than expanding exploration of fossil fuels, but the gap has narrowed by 11 percentage points in the last year.

A survey released Wednesday found that more than 2 out of 3 respondents think it is “a bad idea for the nation to ‘put on hold’ progress toward cleaner energy sources during the current economic difficulty.”

That poll, released by two nonprofit groups, Women’s Energy Matters and Civil Society Institute, suggests strong support for renewable energy, finding that 73 percent agree that federal energy spending should shift to wind and solar.

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4 Responses to Public split over elimination of U.S. energy subsidies, poll finds

  1. Observer Reply Report comment

    April 27, 2012 at 7:23 am

    I like heat, warm steam heat. And I don’t want to wait for the sun to do it because when we need heat the most, it aint out there. And like most folks, I aint gonna live in some freakish cave like space alien ship.

    • Peter L Reply Report comment

      April 27, 2012 at 9:20 am

      Observer. If you ever get down to New Mexico, make it a point to go west of Taos on hiway 64 about fifteen miles and stop in the visitor center at the Earthships. Once you step inside them, you’ll see how genius they really are. There’s nothing freakish about them. they are very sylish and beautifully crafted on the inside. The outside doesn’t have to look like it’s from Star Wars. The principles can be incorporated into contemporary sensibilities.

      As far as the hot water thing. I call my system the Trinity system since it uses 3 water heaters. One as a passive-heater to bring cold ground water to ambient room temperature (no energy required), the second as the solar water circulating tank that goes up thru the roof to the solar collector and down with a water pump cartridge circulator, and the third is a regular 40 gallon water heater hooked up to your choice of gas or electric to pick up the slack for when the solar heater isn’t effective. Since the thermostat can be set on the gas or electric heater, it won’t kick on if the water is at it’s target temperature. Plus, it requires much less energy to bring up the temperature even if the solar collector has rendered your water lukewarm from a cloudy day, than if it were coming out of the ground cold at 45. Even just adding an ambient pre-heating tank without the solar collector will allow your water heater to work much more efficiently. Don’t forget: You don’t want to insulate the ambient tank, but you want to insulate the hell out of your solar tank and your gas or electric one.

      • Peter L Reply Report comment

        April 27, 2012 at 9:31 am

        I’ve built this system and it works great. I even built my collector from harvesting a piece of low-e glass and sweat soldering 3/4 inch copper tubing in an accordian pattern encased in a wooden box, backed with aluminum sheeting, insulation and everything painted flat black with high temperature stove paint. It doesn’t cost that much and there’s nothing more rewarding than taking a hot shower with water you’ve heated from the sun. A household can easily adjust their schedules to revolve around solar activity. My tests proved that even without excessive insulation on my tanks, that the water would be usable warm up to 2am. Most days in spring and summer, the water was hot and ready by 10am. It helps also to have a tracking system put in place. Even a primitive manual lever that shifts the collector to 3 places will dramatically improve the results. Position 1 South East, Position 2 Due South, Position 3 South West.

  2. Observer Reply Report comment

    April 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Peter, you would rather us live in space alien houses or caves (they kind of look the same). I don’t want that. Most people don’t want that either. I like what we have now.

    And while we have the ability to perhaps rely upon wind energy in Iowa, there is no way shape or form it could supply a place like Chicago with it’s requirements (10 million v. Iowa’s 3 million).

    If we committed ever acre of land in Iowa to wind turbines, we still could not meet the needs of the Chicago Metro Area’s energy needs (if every commuter rail line and mass transit line in Chicago were electrified, we might be able to supply the electricity needed).

    Iowa might be able to power two of the four basic steel mills in the Metro area there, but not all of them. And without coke and coal and natural gas, forget it any steel at all. Then there is the five or six refineries, twelve chemical plants, eight steel finishing mills, the list of industries is endless.

    Bottom line Peter, there is more to life than a car or light bulb. Just because it may not exist in Iowa, does not mean it it is not elsewhere.