Poll: Independent Voters Favor Renewable Energy Over Keystone XL Pipeline By 4-1 Margin

Photo: Elvert Barnes

Environmental groups celebrated last fall when President Obama delayed the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would pipe carbon-intensive tar sands crude from Canadian strip mines to refineries in Texas.

Now that Obama is back in the White House for a second term, those same forces are banding together to encourage the president to kill the pipeline altogether.

A new poll suggests that these groups have public opinion on their side.

The polling outfit Zogby Analytics has just conducted a survey showing very strong support for renewable energy and minimal support for the Keystone pipeline among centrist voters.

According to the poll, which was released by the National Wildlife Federation, independent voters say they would choose renewable energies like wind and solar over Keystone XL by a 4-1 margin. Only 12 percent chose Keystone as a priority. And among all voters surveyed across party lines, renewables received twice the support as fossil energies.

The survey doesn’t tell us how voters feel about killing the Keystone pipeline outright. And the comparison in the survey — which conflates electricity generation technologies like wind and solar with liquid transportation fuels that the Keystone pipeline would support — doesn’t accurately reflect the differences in energy types. But to the average voter, that doesn’t really matter.

The important finding from this poll is exactly what we’ve seen in many others over the years: Americans of all political persuasions really like renewable energy and will almost always choose it as a priority over fossil fuels.

That strong support for renewables and other clean technologies over fossil fuels was the premise of a pre-election report from the Center for American Progress. That report — designed to directly challenge the American Petroleum Institute’s multi-million dollar campaign promoting unprecedented fossil fuel development — laid out balanced regional strategies for advancing clean technologies that voters say they prefer.

As it turned out, the API campaign didn’t convince voters. And after countering hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spending from groups promoting Keystone XL and expanded fossil fuel drilling, many environmental groups are feeling energized about where they stand post-election.

Broadly speaking, it looks like voters continue to stand with them.

Consider the results in races where the Keystone XL pipeline played a prominent role. In the swing state of Florida, Senator Bill Nelson was attacked repeatedly by his Republican challenger for opposing the Keystone Pipeline. He won by a large margin.

“The Nelson race was supposed to be a showdown on Keystone and it was a blowout,” said Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, at a press conference the day after the election.

In fact, every single Senator who opposed the Keystone XL pipeline won their races this election.

According to a Climate Progress analysis of ad spending using Kantar Media CMAG data, $1.8 million was spent on Keystone XL-related ads since September in Virginia and New Mexico — both states that elected candidates supported by environmental groups.

The Zogby poll also shows broad support for other environmental initiatives. According to the survey, 44 percent of voters say the government is doing too little to protect clean air, clean water, and other natural resources. Only 14 percent say the government is doing too much in this area. In addition, 65 percent of respondents said that political leaders need to act now in order to address future climate impacts.

These findings come as environmental groups begin crafting their post-election strategies on climate, environmental protections, and renewable energy promotion.

The Keystone XL pipeline is first on the priority list for many groups. This Sunday, the climate activist organization is leading a rally in Washington against the project. Other major groups are expressing their desire to push the White House on Keystone as well.

“We want the President to take a long, hard look at the Keystone pipeline and reject it outright,” said Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club, at a press conference. “This is a priority for us.”

12 Responses to Poll: Independent Voters Favor Renewable Energy Over Keystone XL Pipeline By 4-1 Margin

  1. Mark E says:

    Looking ahead to 2016 presidential race here is an inverse relationship:

    Likelihood of serious 3rd party clean energy hawk (Bloomberg for example) running in 2016 is inversely proportional to this ratio:

    Democrats climate action
    Democrats climate talk

  2. BillD says:

    The purpose of the Keystone pipeline is to provide a means for exporting energy from Canada to Latin American and other destinations. The risk to the enviroment and climate are high, while the benefits to the US are minimal. Now we hear that the US is well on its way to energy independence without Canadian energy and without the strong push that we need to renewable energy. I seem to have read that the tar sands are not faring well in comparison with natural gas. So, if we can delay the Keystone pipeline, maybe it will just go away.

  3. Leif says:

    Crack for Horse is not an option.

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    The study showing that 65% of US voters support immediate action on climate change is big. So why is there still no movement?

    It appears that politicians either get money from the fossil companies or have been made to believe that the economic consequences or serious change would be unbearable. We need to see more detailed and holistic studies about the economic effects of 5% annual emissions reductions.

    Anderson of Tyndall believes that we will have to effect a planned recession. Obama has already said that this is not acceptable. That means a few more insulated windows etc- BAU, in other words.

    There is a dearth of empirical evidence on what would actually happen if we insisted on a rapid transition from coal, oil, and gas. Joe and Stephen, can you help us here?

  5. Mike (and everybody),

    Remember all the talk of a “green economy” when Obama and the Dems were swept into power in 2008? That was subsumed by the health care debate and the fighting that ensued, but the concept is still very much alive — in my mind at least.

    Build concentrated solar power plants in the desert and decommission coal and nuclear plants. Rebuild the grid. Insulate America. There is tons of work to be done, millions of jobs to be created converting to a green economy.

    It just takes leadership. Don’t stop bugging Obama.

  6. Art Richardson says:

    Ok let them have their pipeline after they put 50 billion is an escrow account for cleanup costs and that a minimum of 70% of the oil be used in the US

  7. Leif says:

    Distributed energy can put a cash cow in every hand. Much easier than mega-projects which is still the same old sh*t in different cloths. My property could be a power exporter with energy storage on the block. (Liquid Metal Batteries?) Perhaps. Make it happen.

  8. mike says:

    I dont get it. Canada is our neighbor and friend. All these protesters are driving around in their cars with oil from countries like venezeuala and saudi arabia etc. I support the pipeline 100%. If you are going to protest oil from canada why dont you portest oil from countries that support terriorism and are anti US. seems hypocritical to me. thank you.

  9. Leif,

    We need both distributed and centralized energy, especially when it comes to solar. The problem with distibuted solar is that it’s based on PV panels — the direct conversion of sunlight to electricity — which is only operative when the sun is up and the clouds are hiding. Storage for such systems is dependent on batteries made with one nasty, expensive chemical or another, so they are mostly limited to daytime use. CSP systems are essentially “heat engines,” but must be of a certain size to work or be worth building — big enough to require grid distribution. (Also, you won’t be able to sell your home grown energy without a grid, so why not connect that grid to bigger power sources as well?)

  10. fj says:

    While the climate and weather will likely grow much more difficult the requisite social change may be truly exciting with people fervently working together against what may appear to be truly impossible odds part of what has been seen in the response to Hurricane Sandy.

    Tremendous social change is likely in the offing; perhaps poor people first, universal healthcare, universal advanced education, accelerating reduction in violence . . .

    It’s long overdue that possible narratives start to emerge; hints of which might be gleaned from Pinker’s “Better Angels of Our Nature,” The London School of Economics ideas on new economies, Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast & Slow, Gleick “The Information” and elsewhere.

  11. Joan Savage says:

    When pipeline promoters claim the Keystone XL is for US energy independence, they downplay the KXL’s role in Canadian export to Latin America, but there is a grain of credibility. Extraction from oil shale formations within the US would be likely to use such a pipeline in the future.

    The Bakken formation is producing at present, and the reserves in Green River oil shales are enormous. Some say Green River is the biggest oil shale reserve in the world.

  12. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. There is greater awareness on Renewables in the US.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India