U.S. Poll Shows Strong Support for Renewable Energy

U.S. president George Bush is “out of step” with his environment and energy policy, according to a poll commissioned by the Sierra Club.

WASHINGTON, DC (US) 2002-02-06 [SolarAccess.com] Most voters prefer to achieve energy security by developing alternative sources of energy and increasing efficiency, rather than by drilling for more oil, according to 1,000 registered voters who were surveyed between December 15-20 by the Mellman Group. Mellman is identified as a Democratic polling firm. “This poll shows that President Bush’s anti-environmental actions are out of step with Americans’ values,” says Carl Pope, executive director of Sierra Club. “Even people who voted for President Bush did not vote for more arsenic in their water or more global warming pollution.” Bush claims that his proposed energy legislation is important to domestic security because it encourages drilling in wilderness areas and promotes construction of coal-fired power plants, which would reduce U.S. reliance on oil from the Middle East. The U.S. imports 60 percent of its oil, up from 47 percent a decade ago. The Mellman survey indicates that 71 percent of respondents do not agree with Bush’s plans. The proposal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was rejected by 63 percent of voters, with 47 percent ”strongly” opposing it. By comparison, 31 percent favour drilling, with 20 percent ”strongly” supporting activity in ANWR. When asked which option would best solve energy problems in the U.S., 37 percent said alternative energy, 34 percent said energy efficiency, 19 percent said more production of oil, and 2 percent said more energy imports from friendly countries. Nine percent had no opinion. The survey said drilling in ANWR would create 735,000 new jobs, but 69 percent of respondents said development of alternative energy would create more jobs. Only 18 percent said Arctic drilling would generate more jobs than investing in renewable energy; 13 percent said neither, both or did not know. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has said it supports drilling due to the jobs it would create, while the United Steelworkers and other unions agree with environmentalists who oppose opening the wilderness refuge. “President Bush’s environmental policies are costing him public support,” said Mark Mellman, president and CEO of the Mellman Group. “The more these issues are debated and the more the public learns, the greater the damage to President Bush. President Bush’s job performance on the environment is strikingly low, and Americans do not trust him to fight for them on environmental issues.” Overall, 58 percent of voters polled gave Bush a negative rating for protecting the environment, while 27 percent gave him a positive rating. Fifty percent believe he reversed his position on GHG emissions after intense lobbying from polluting industries, while 28 percent said he changed his position because of legitimate policy concerns. “The Bush plan won’t solve America’s energy problem, and the public knows it,” says Pope. “What Americans understand is what we’re proposing – energy efficiency, renewable power and clean technologies – is actually quicker, cleaner, cheaper, safer and more reliable solutions.” To mark Bush’s first 100 days in office, the Sierra Club will run national advertisements and launch a website to highlight his environmental record. The ad says Bush wants to drill for oil at the same time his proposed budget cuts funding for renewable energy and, “on balance, your actions have been bad for our health and bad for our future.” In August, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved an energy bill that would allow some drilling in ANWR, but the measure must still pass the Senate, where there is more balance between Democrats and Republicans. The bill is expected to be debated in mid-February. The Democrats are promoting their own energy proposals that focus on renewable energy sources and fuel cells. The Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle, wants legislation to promote renewables and conservation. The leader in the House, Richard Gephardt, has called for an ‘Apollo Project’ to develop renewable energy solutions by the end of the decade by using tax credits to require that 20 percent of U.S. energy to come from renewable and alternative sources of energy by 2010. A Mellman survey in March 2001 found that a majority of Americans oppose the plan to allow drilling in ANWR. Conducted for the Wilderness Society, the survey suggested four options for solving energy problems and the top choice, selected by 44 percent of respondents, was to increase reliance on alternative forms of energy. Another 31 percent preferred more energy-efficiency measures while 16 percent favoured more domestic oil and gas drilling.
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