Polling Reveals That Being Anti-Clean Energy is Bad Politics

Anyone who cares about addressing climate change and strengthening America’s economic competitiveness knows that being anti-renewable energy is terrible policy. Turns out, it’s bad politics too.

A new poll conducted by ORC International for the non-partisan Civil Society Institute finds that 77% of Americans support — including 65% of Republicans surveyed — believe “the U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.”

The poll found that Americans support subsidies for renewable energy over fossil energy 3 to 1. When asked about having to choose between only subsidizing clean energy or fossil energy, 38% of respondents said they’d choose renewables, while 13% would choose fossils.

Despite all the sweeping calls to end all subsidies to energy from presidential candidates, the poll shows that only 13% believe that’s a good idea. And remarkably, only 26% of Tea Party members support that idea.

The Civil Society Institute explains the political significance of the findings:

If Congress thinks it has found a winning issue in trashing wind and solar power … and if the Obama Administration believes that voters will reward it for boosting coal, gas and nuclear power … then both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are making serious miscalculations about the sentiments of mainstream Americans.


Even with such broad support for clean energy, Republicans like Congressman Cliff Stearns support continuing subsidies to oil, gas, coal and nuclear while pulling support for clean energy, saying “green energy isn’t going be the solution.” And Presidential Candidate Rick Perry recently called on the government to end all energy subsidies.

It’s unclear how this issue will play out in the coming months as the Congressional Supercommittee tasked with reducing the deficit unveils its plan. A number of groups across the political spectrum have called for $380 billion in cuts to energy subsidies — some in clean energy, but most of them in the fossil energy sector.

As members of Congress consider those cuts, it’s important to remember how supportive Americans are of clean energy.

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“In dozens of focus groups we have conducted this month across the country on a wide variety of subjects, when voters are asked where they would like new jobs in their state to come from, the first words out of their mouths are almost always the same – clean energy and related technology.  Voters believe that the clean energy economy is here and is growing, and they want their state to have a part of it.”

22 Responses to Polling Reveals That Being Anti-Clean Energy is Bad Politics

  1. John McCormick says:

    When the FBI goes after alleged suspects for crimes in their jurisdiction, they identify them and pursue arrest, indictments, and court dates.

    We only bitch about the next crime against humanity and wail.

    Can Progressive Progress organize sit-ins and mass demonstrations in the congressional districts of those climate terrorists and force the perps to confront the demonstrators?

    My No. VA Congress-person is right on with our demands but there are some out there who should be led to the public square for a public whipping. We know who they are and we know who lives in their congressional districts. Put the mailing list together and target those voters. They just stand up to those jakals and vote them out.

    It doesn’t require camping out in freezing weather to get their attention. It requires public harassment. That is legal…1st Amendment rights.

  2. John Tucker says:

    You had me until ¨that voters will reward it for boosting coal, gas and nuclear power¨

    Nuclear Power is clean energy Stephen. And being anti clean energy is bad politics.

  3. John Tucker says:

    Can you or any of your readers give one instance where a nuclear plant that wasn’t built was replaced by what you term ¨clean energy” – that wasn’t somehow fortified with NG or coal or energy imports. Just ONE.

    Surely to lump it in with high carbon polluters your alternatives were, on the whole ¨cleaner.¨

    Just one successful case to look at.

  4. Geoff Beacon says:

    I attended a reception in the UK Parliament yesterday where the film “The 4th Revolution: Energy Autonomy” was shown. It was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Climate Cange Group and the German Embassy in the UK. It was an excellent film about renewable energy. Although it’s contents may not be a surprise to visitors to Climate Progress, it was very inspirational. The version I saw was for English speakers.

    The website for the film is

    In the UK the popular media is not particularly supportive of renewables and an interesting comment by one of the panelists was that the German media were very supportive of renewable energy because the German public believed in it. “If you want to sell newspapers you don’t criticise renewable energy.”

    Given the polling you report here perhaps the media in the USA should be told this.

  5. Raul M. says:

    I’ve heard that nuke power plants take years before the elec. from them makes that nice profit margin. There is a great art in exclusion of reasons why it’s not so good to have nuke plants. Japan is the latest country having great difficulties in maintaining those exclusions as to why it may not be a good idea to have so much nuke power. They might have reasons that the commoners in the US haven’t learned yet; but, I think they have lasting reasons why it’s not so good.

  6. John Tucker says:

    Also going through the REAL numbers:

    Total US electricity was 4,120.0 in 2010 ( Billion Kilowatthours) Up from 3,802.1 in 2000 an increase of 317.9.

    Over the same period wind and solar combined increased by 89.8. Thats not even enough to cover ONE THIRD of the increase. It is going BACKWARDS.

    In a race its generally better to finish somewhere forward of where you started.

    Also is using nameplate capacity to give percentages of electricity incredibly misleading? Ive heard in several places how around 2.4 percent of US electricity is generated by wind.

    When I do the percentage by electricity generated its .023 PERCENT ???

    Solar doesn’t really even rate yet.


    Annual Energy Review
    Release Date: October 19, 2011
    Table 8.2a Electricity Net Generation:

    ( )

  7. John Tucker says:

    oops was totally wrong there 2.3 percent on the wind is correct. Still doesn’t cover one third the increase in use. Solar doesn’t even rate.

    We are so not going to make this work as is.

  8. Leif says:

    Even with all your points taken there is no way that you can look at recent mess in Japan and Russia a few years before, and tell me Nuclear is Green. One thing for sure is that all Nuclear accidents will happen in populated areas.

  9. Raul M. says:

    Maybe the candidates just need to show as the best choice to be saved in the exclusive storm shelter for real spirituality to survive or for exclusive finances to survive.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I doubt that those excluded from the ‘Zones’ around Chernobyl or Fukushima would agree. Toxic nuclear waste will never be ‘clean’.

  11. John Tucker says:

    1. Comparing the Russian reactor at Chernobyl to modern reactors is like comparing a building HVAC system to a bonfire.

    2, In the Japan disaster: a worst case MULTIPLE natural disaster with multiple human errors – No casualties. Also proving the potential for casualties in a disaster is not certain, not a uniform distribution and much more manageable than thought.

  12. John Tucker says:

    Too bad we cant have a reasonable discussion on it not based in irrational fear and innuendo.

  13. Joan Savage says:

    Sorry. No.
    Clean energy does not leave poo for others to endure. Spent fuel rods are nuclear waste poo that will be around for millennia. The reality is that there is no technically flawless storage system or a proven reuse of the fuel rods, so the spent fuel rods will be around for longer than any human government has been known to persist. Even if there were no new TMI, Chernobyl or Fukushima events, care for the dreck of the 20th and 21st century nuclear processes is a terrible burden to impose on future generations. That was obvious even before we learned about global warming, yet another filthy gift to the future.

  14. John Tucker says:

    Also we are not discussing modern safety equipment or designs with those reactors.

    That is never discussed here or is anything that could be perceived as putting nuclear power in a positive light. Just horror stories and vague references to cost.

    Surely you dont consider the anti nuclear views here to be based in logical comparison and fact? When it comes to considering nuclear power seriously here we are pretty much like a middle ages village dealing with a delightful new Wicca coven or like WATTSUPWITHAT dealing with anything scientific.

    Its a shame because everything now needs to be considered seriously.

    You dont have to look far to understand why people are not serious about climate change, dont stand up for reasonable assessment and also are not willing to change their mind or make difficult and unpopular choices.

    Thats why we are all here now.

    Right? Nothing is without consequences and negatives. Nothing has it easy or simple in this universe. The trick is getting the negative under control and if possible turning it positive.

    We are all really good at making things appear that way when its self promoting or convenient. We need to be good at really doing it when its not.

  15. John Tucker says:

    Village residents have complained about what they called toxic smokestack emissions and about factory wastewater that they say has killed a large number of fish. Government inspectors have confirmed that fluoride contamination was 10 times higher than acceptable levels after heavy rainfall swept improperly stored wastewater into a canal, according to the state-run news media. ( )

    the permanent magnets used to manufacture a 3-megawatt turbine contain some two tons of rare earth. ( )

    Spent fuel rods are less radioactive than fuel – they are recyclable, but it costs money. Perhaps we should dilute it and grind it up and spread it everywhere like the waste form coal plants. Those toxins have no half life and remain toxic forever. Then we wouldn’t have that waste storage problem.

  16. John Tucker says:

    BTW ONE coal plant makes as much low level waste as all the US nuclear plants combined do of high level waste. But dont worry, storage isn’t an issue as it is all released into the environment.

  17. Raul M. says:

    It is so sad what happened there after so many people had believed in and worked so hard for nukes to be the way of elec. energy.
    They who had believed, I just wouldn’t know how to begin to justify what happened.

  18. Raul M. says:

    The new safety design at Fukushima is sort of a secret because they have been in a very big hurry to make it safer. Many experts are working hard to try to.come forth with modern safety designs.
    Except for the fact of cummilitve radiation it would be safer. As yet there is no word of real estate transfers or of transfers to the rights of compensation for neighbors inconvenience. Many aspects of life have been compromised but you may take their word for it they are sorry it happened.

  19. mulp says:

    If wind/solar currently account for 2.3% of total megawatts, but added capacity over a decade with limited support for wind/solar until modest support in the last few years accounted for 30%, then wind/solar are making great progress.

    Especially for a nation that has huge conservative opposition to ending pillage and plunder energy policy.

    And the American people seem to have made themselves clear – we want Obama to make the US green, but we want Congress to cut the price of oil and electricity even if it requires polluting the places most conservatives live: coal and oil country. and giving corporations the right to kill conservatives working in fossil fuels or living in the shadow of the mining waste is ok because conservatives will go to heaven.

  20. mulp says:

    Environmentalists have been terrible on framing the debate on energy and environment, so much so the media reporting is screwed up, and then they poll the public based on the screwed up framing of the reporting.

    For a concrete example of good framing of the issue, follow Amory Lovins for the business case for moving to a “green” economy. No one ever polls on his green economy framing which is based on sound and profitable engineering and manufacturing that would put the US in global leadership.

    I take Amory Lovin’s approach a step further in stating an economic philosophy using what linguist Nunberg calls “Talking Right”.

    A green energy economy is pure capitalism.

    Our current energy economy is pillage and plunder.

    Environmentalists should be strong advocates of capitalism, and be attacking the pillage and plunder oil and coal mining, forest destruction, wetlands destruction, species extinctions,…

    A capitalist “buys and holds”, but recognizing all capital depreciates unless it receives constant reinvestment for renewal.

    Building a wind farm is capitalism. Building a solar roof is capitalism.

    Burning coal or oil is pillage and plunder of capital stock, literally burning capital.

    A wind farm or solar roof will produce as much or more power after five decades of reinvestment to offset depreciation.

    A oil or coal mine with be worthless after five decades no matter how much added investment – the original natural capital has been pillaged and plunder just like the Hun pillaged and plunder storehouses and treasuries as they moved across the land.

    (Wall Street over the past several decades has “innovated” into pillage and plunder of your savings, IRA, 401K, and lobby Congress to create incentives for We the People to give Wall Street more of our income to pillage and plunder.)

    But currently, polls show We the People want
    1. a green economy and
    2. cheap oil and electricity
    3. and cheap houses to buy and cheap houses to operate because 5000 gallons of heating oil only costs $500 and a megawatt-hour costs $1.

    The last thing any one asks is whether it is better to:
    1. invest $100 and pay $200 a year or
    2. invest $500 and pay $10 a year

    Most Americans are unwilling to invest in energy capital with a payback of more than three years at a time when savings earn 1% and debt costs 10%, yet a 4 year break-even is a 20% ROIC over 4 years and then much higher in years following. Pillage and plunder wins over capitalism because it is instant gratification.

  21. seakat says:

    If nuclear power is so clean, perhaps you can answer a question that no one else has done. How do you clean up the mining?

  22. decentralizedimprov (@decentralimprov) says:

    Subsidizing centralized agriculture, keeping archaic building codes to protect union interests and centralized energy, trying to pick winners through science funding or other subsidies, spending a $1 trillion/year bombing the world for energy supremacy, paying hundreds of thousands of people to drive every day to government dictated positions that have no value to anyone (if anything, cause other people more harm), protecting special interests, and otherwise government at all levels trying to micro-manage energy or any other resource have done more to lead us into the predicament than good.

    Science is not a public good. Washington & every other state/local government needs to do a whole lot less. Without the force of government working against it, there’s a good chance decentralized food & energy will win, in which case renewable energy will have its day.