Ohio conservatives are craving clean energy

Seventy-two percent would advise Republican candidates to back renewable energy policies.

Veteran Ben Noland works on a solar panel installation in Dublin, Ohio. CREDIT: AP/KANTELE FRANKO
Veteran Ben Noland works on a solar panel installation in Dublin, Ohio. CREDIT: AP/KANTELE FRANKO

A majority of Republican and conservative independent voters in the key battleground state of Ohio favor green energy, and would even tell Republican candidates to support renewable energy policies, a poll found.

Conducted earlier this month only on Republican and conservative independents, the poll found that 72 percent of these voters would advise Republican candidates to back renewable energy policies, the Plain Dealer reported.

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A majority of voters — 62 percent — also said they’d back a standard requiring utilities to supply at least 5 percent renewable power within the next half a decade, according to the Public Opinion Strategies poll.

Conservative Ohio voters went as far as to say they still favor renewable energy even if it costs them. Almost 50 percent of respondents said they would pay at least $5 more per month to get renewable energy power in their electricity mix. About 17 percent said they would pay $20 a month more for renewable power.

In addition, nearly 80 percent oppose charges to rehabilitate old coal plants unable to compete against gas-fired power plants, while 87 percent want utilities to continue crediting customers with rooftop solar systems for the excess power generated.

The poll’s margin of error was 4.9 percent, but even with that factored in, the results still point to clear support among Ohio Republicans for clean energy. “The survey clearly demonstrates support among conservative voters for a broad rage of policies to encourage energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy,” Lori Weigel, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies, told the Plain Dealer.

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Voters “think of renewable energy as a job creator, and place these sources of energy squarely in the mix of more traditional energy sources,” she said.

Ohio has long been a bellwether for presidential elections — the state has picked the winner in all but two elections since 1904 — which makes all Ohio voter polls significant for candidates and scholars.

The Ohio Senate race is also one of the most volatile this year, the Hill reported, with incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman a top target for Democrats now eyeing Senate control.

Portman is considered more centrist than most Republicans, however, he’s expressed uncertainty regarding how much humans factor into global warming. “I do think climate change is real,” Portman said in 2015. But as far as the human role, he added: ‘I’m not going to quantify it because scientists have a lot of different views on that. (97 percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing climate change.)

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Portman, who has over the years received funding from dirty energy companies, believes in an “all-the-above energy strategy” that includes coal and fracking development, which has been linked with hundreds of earthquakes in the state.

He supports energy efficiency, but also opposes the Clean Power Plan, a court-embattled rule designed to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the coming years. Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, responsible for about 38 percent of the nation’s climate change heat-trapping gases.

Recent polls show that Portman, who’s endorsed Donald Trump, is leading over his Democratic rival, former governor Ted Strickland. Strickland, who has the backing of anti-coal groups and other green organizations, is also lagging behind in campaign contributions by a wide margin.