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Americans want renewable energy standards: survey

Americans are less divided than you might believe on renewable energy standards and energy efficiency mandates, according to a spring 2017 survey from the University of Michigan. 81% of Americans support energy efficiency mandates and 79% support renewable portfolio standards.

As the federal government steps away from addressing climate change as a matter of policy, the discussion turns to what action individual states and communities may take to pick up the slack. In Michigan, mayors around the state joined a national movement in pledging to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement.

One area where states are able to establish strong policy is through the creation of renewable energy portfolio standards requiring that a certain percentage of the state’s generated electricity comes from renewable energy sources.

Sarah Mills, a research fellow at the U-M Ford School of Public Policy and co-author of the study, says there’s strong support from all political parties for specific policy steps states have taken in the past—and not just among those who believe in climate change.

Renewable Energy Standard Findings:

  • 66 percent of respondents agree with the statement: “If the federal government fails to address the issue of global warming, it is my state’s responsibility to address the problem.” This is up from 48 percent the last time this question was asked in 2013.
  • 77 percent of Democrats say they believe it is their state’s responsibility to address global warming, a 20-point jump from 57 percent in 2013. And 51 percent of Republicans now also agree that states should act, up from just 34 percent four years ago.
  • 81 percent of respondents support efficiency mandates and 79 percent support “renewable portfolio standards,” which require that a set portion of electricity come from renewable sources.
  • 89 percent support increasing the use of solar energy and 83 percent favor the use of wind energy at the state level outside of the context of a mandate. Republicans in particular, while slightly more inclined to oppose a renewable energy mandate, show very strong support for increasing wind and solar use by other means.
  • 74 percent of Americans who don’t believe there is evidence that Earth is warming support adding more solar energy in their state, and 67 percent support adding more wind energy.
  • A majority of Americans—including those who do not think climate change is happening—say that solar and wind energy create jobs.

“As President Trump was announcing that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Accord, a number of governors—and mayors—reaffirmed their commitment to reducing carbon emissions, pledging deep cuts within their boundaries and proposing more inter-state collaboration,” said Barry Rabe, U-M professor of public policy and director of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy. “Our data suggest that these state-level pledges match the expectations of a majority of Americans.

The spring 2017 NSEE surveyed 841 adult residents of the United States between April 17 and May 16. The survey is a joint effort of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy and the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.

Source: U-M Issues in Energy and Environmental Policy Number 31 (PDF warning)