The public demand for alternative energies remains alive and well, based on a Gallup poll released last week that analyzes popular opinion on various sources of energy.
Gallup conducted random phone interviews of 1,022 Americans earlier in March, asking which source of energy production should the US “place more emphasis” in the future. A breakdown of the results is noted below, itemized by political preference and geographic whereabouts:
The poll reaffirms much of the “all of the above” energy plan being implemented by the Obama administration, with a stronger focus on renewable energies in comparison to past administrations. $150 million being made available for clean energy companies in February, the extension of wind energy tax credits following the fiscal cliff crisis, California and New Jersey each surpassing a gigawatt of solar energy capacity and wind energy records being broken in Texas are only a few examples of the effects Obama’s energy team have implemented the past few months.
As the numbers indicate, the considerable majority of Americans are in favor of the efforts being made by their government with respect to wind, solar and natural gas energy. All three energy sources are generally viewed as being more environmentally-friendly than the current alternatives, but of the three, natural gas poses the most questions. As the Gallup report stated, “[q]uestions remain about the safety of ‘fracking technology’ – meaning public support may not be enough to increase the US emphasis on [natural gas].”
US Natural Gas Advocacy
Although Gallup indicates public support for natural gas potentially reaching a plateau, the Obama administration has not wavered in its support. With the departure of three key members of his energy team this quarter, President Obama was presented the option to bring in new members who were more restrictive towards natural gas. However, the President chose to appoint Ernest Moniz for US Energy Secretary and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, both of whom are considered dedicated advocates to fracking and the natural gas industry.
In a 2010 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (via Bloomberg.com), Moniz spoke about the necessity of natural gas power, “[i]n the very long run, very tight carbon constraints will likely phase out natural gas power generation in favor of zero-carbon or extremely low-carbon energy sources…for the next several decades, however, natural gas will play a crucial role in enabling very substantial reductions in carbon emissions.”
McCarthy has shown favor for the natural gas industry as well, including a greenhouse-gas proposal for new electric generation facilities during her time as head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. Natural gas facilities would qualify for the proposal because they emit a fraction of the carbon dioxide in comparison to coal when generating electricity.
Renewable Energy Under Lobbyist Fire?
Despite the public favorability of wind and solar energy, some legislative challenges have posed a threat to additional installations, specifically at the state level. Of the twenty-nine states currently honoring mandatory state regulations for renewable energies, over twenty have been contested by fossil fuel advocacy groups and various conservative organizations in the last year or so.
More often than not, they either reference unfair economic advantages for renewable energy growth or potentially unreasonable standards to surpass in a few years time. Fortunately for the renewable energy industry, most of these proposals are dismissed quickly, but some exceptions have warranted additional effort from state government. A comprehensive breakdown by state is available here through InsideClimate News.