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SETTING THE 2009 ENERGY & CLIMATE AGENDA: SURVEY FINDS AMERICANS DO NOT FAVOR MORE “SUBPRIME” ENERGY INVESTMENTS IN CARBON-BASED FUELS, NUCLEAR POWER

Strong Majority Want Next President, Congress to Focus on Clean Renewable Energy and Increased Efficiency; Public Favors Shifting Federal Subsidies Away From Coal and Nuclear.

WASHINGTON, D.C.///September 25, 2008//If the next President and Congress are going to continue to invest in energy through subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives, the focus should shift from coal and nuclear power to promoting wind and solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, hybrids and other highly fuel-efficient cars, according to a new national survey of 1,006 U.S. adults conducted for CLEAN and the Civil Society Institute by the leading U.S. survey firm Opinion Research Corporation (ORC).

Key CLEAN/Civil Society Institute (CSI) survey findings include the following:

  • Most Americans want the next President and Congress to achieve energy independence by relying on clean energy sources, rather than coal, oil and nuclear power plants. When asked what the new President and Congress should make “their number one energy-related priority for the nation” in 2009, about three out of five (59 percent) favor “promoting energy sources such as wind or solar, more conservation of energy, and hybrid or other highly fuel-efficient cars,” compared to only about one in four (26 percent) who want a focus on “promoting energy sources such as more coal-fired power plants, oil from offshore drilling and nuclear power.”
  • More than four out of five Americans want to see government aid for wind and solar power put on the same or better footing as coal-fired and nuclear power plants. More than half of Americans (52 percent) – including 59 percent of Republicans, 48 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Independents -- want the government to “evenly divide” any subsidies, tax breaks or other incentives for new construction “between nuclear power and coal-fired power plants and energy sources such as wind and solar.” Nearly a third of Americans (30 percent) – including 38 percent of Democrats, and 33 percent of Independents – would go further, having the government “shift all or most of them from nuclear power and coal-fired power plants to energy sources such as wind and solar.” Only about one in 10 Americans (12 percent) would “keep the incentives for nuclear power and coal-fired power the way they are today.”
  • A halt to construction of new coal-fired power plants is supported by Americans. Nearly three out of four Americans (73 percent) – including 64 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents -- would support “a five-year moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in the United States if there was stepped-up investment in clean, safe renewable energy -- such as wind and solar -- and improved home energy-efficiency standards.”

Commenting on the findings, Civil Society Institute President and Founder Pam Solo said: “Americans deserve credit for understanding that more investment by the federal government in coal and nuclear power is essentially the same thing as investing in subprime mortgages. If U.S. taxpayers are going to directly or indirectly underwrite energy development and energy-intensive industries – such as the auto industry – we need to insist that the next Congress and President make good, solid investments that make sense for the long-term of our country. The only energy investments that rise above the ‘subprime’ level today are wind, solar and other clean renewable energy in concert with enhanced energy efficiency.”

Grant Smith, national project coordinator, CLEAN, said: “Investments in coal and nuclear power are the Countrywide Financial subprime mortgages of the energy world. What the public is saying in this survey is that we support Washington making investments in the energy sources of tomorrow, but we have to stop flushing money down the drain by propping up the failing energy sources of yesterday, including oil, coal and nuclear. It makes no sense to be making 50-year investments in new coal-fired power plants. Energy efficiency and renewable technologies already have overtaken, in many instances, or will soon overtake, in other instances, coal-fired power in terms of direct cost and are far superior in terms of financial risk, economic benefit, and the ability address global warming. There is no viable model under which new nuclear power plants can be constructed as anything other than multi-billion-dollar public works boondoggles. After the current financial debacle on Wall Street, it is hard to imagine that Americans are going to allow more dumb investments by Washington on the wrong energy sources.”

The national survey findings were echoed separate state-specific surveys conducted for CLEAN and the Civil Society Institute by ORC in the key coal country states of West Virginia and Kentucky:

  • West Virginia residents oppose blasting the wind farm site at Coal River Mountain. More than three out of five West Virginia residents (62 percent) – including 50 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents -- oppose Governor Manchin’s decision against stopping “Massey Energy from using mountaintop removal coal mining to level a section of Coal River Mountain that could have been used for a wind farm …” Only 35 percent of state residents support the Governor’s decision. While 15 percent of state residents strongly support the inaction on Manchin’s part, a much larger 39 percent are strongly opposed to it.
  • Renewable energy and more energy efficiency beats coal in Kentucky. As Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear frames a new energy plan for his state, the #1 priority identified by the largest number of Kentucky residents is “transitioning to renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind” (43 percent), with the second most-popular priority being “increased emphasis on energy efficiency/ cutting wasted energy” (30 percent). Few state residents picked nuclear power (7 percent) and “more coal mining” (12 percent) as their top priorities.

Opinion Research Corporation Senior Researcher Graham Hueber said: “Taken together, the three surveys being released today suggest that national attitudes about energy and climate action vary relatively little when you drill down into views of the two chief coal states of West Virginia and Kentucky. In fact, in some respects, the residents of the two states that we focused on are even more inclined than other Americans to look beyond coal and other carbon-based fuels to renewable energy sources.”

OTHER KEY FINDINGS

The CLEAN/Civil Society Institute survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation also found:

  • Americans pick clean energy over coal and nuclear power. Two out of three Americans would ask for wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies if they could “tell your power or utility company where to get the power to run your house.” By contrast, only 8 percent would pick nuclear power and just three would pick “coal-generated power.”
  • Wind and solar are seen as the future of energy for America. More than two out of three Americans now see coal (70 percent) and oil (67 percent) as the “power sources of yesterday.” By contrast, solar and wind are seen as “power sources of tomorrow” by 92 percent and 88 percent of Americans, respectively.
  • The vast majority of Americans see a positive or neutral economic impact from dealing with global warming. Fewer than one in five Americans (17 percent) believe that “action on global warming will hurt the U.S. economy,” while over half (51 percent) believe “action on global warming will create new jobs and investment.” Just over a quarter (28 percent) say that such action “will neither help nor hurt the economy”. Republicans are roughly twice as likely (24 percent) as Democrats (12 percent) and Independents (13 percent) to see a possible economic peril in acting on global warming.
  • Most Americans know that time is running out to deal with global warming. More than three out of five Americans (63 percent) believe that “global warming is a problem and we have limited time to figure out the solutions to it,” compared to just 6 percent who agree there is a problem “but it is too late to figure out the solutions to it” or the 12 percent who agree on the problem but believe “we have plenty of time to figure out the solutions to it.” Fewer than one in five Americans (16 percent) say that “global warming is not a problem, so no solutions are needed.” Republicans are far more likely at 29 percent to see no problem posed by global warming, compared to Democrats (5 percent) and Independents (15 percent).
  • Today’s politicians are not seen as likely to act on climate issues. Two out of three Americans have “only a small degree of confidence” (40 percent) or “no confidence” (27 percent) that “our current elected officials in the United States will act decisively on global warming issues.”
  • Energy issues will figure prominently at the ballot box in November. More than nine out of 10 Americans (91 percent) say that “the views of candidates on energy-related issues -- such as gasoline prices, home heating oil prices, global warming and energy independence” will be important as they vote in 2008. Of this amount nearly three in five (58 percent) say that energy issues will be “very important” to how they vote.

Other key findings include the following:

  • More than three out of four Americans (78 percent) agree with the following statement: “The effects of global warming require that we take timely and decisive steps for renewable, safe and clean energy sources. We need transitional technologies on our path to energy independence. There are tough choices to be made and tradeoffs. We cannot afford to postpone decisions since there are no perfect options.”
  • More than nine out of Americans (91 percent) agreement with the following statement: “The reliance on fossil fuels is the product of the industrial revolution of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Do you think it is time for our nation to start thinking in terms of the concept of a ‘new industrial revolution,’ one that is characterized by the orderly phasing out of fossil fuels and the phasing in of clean, renewable energy sources -- many of which are available now, such as wind and solar for electricity, hybrid and clean diesel technologies for cars?”
  • More than four out of five Americans (85 percent) do not think “the federal government is doing enough about high energy prices and the U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern energy sources.”
  • Over half (52 percent) of Americans are more likely to “buy a hybrid, clean-diesel or other more fuel-efficient vehicle now” than they were six months ago. Less than a third (31 percent) are no more likely to buy such a vehicle and well under one in five (15 percent) are less likely to make such a purchase.
  • About seven out of 10 Americans (69 percent) think “the U.S. government should set a national goal of declaring July 4, 2015, as ‘Energy Independence Day’ -- a real target date for ending our reliance on Middle Eastern and other foreign oil supplies.”

For complete survey findings, go to http://www.theclean.org/.

SURVEY METHODOLOGY

The CLEAN/Civil Society Institute survey is based on the findings of a telephone survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation’s CARAVAN omnibus. The survey was conducted among a sample of 1,006 adults (503 men and 503 women) aged 18 and older living in private households in the Continental United States. Interviewing was completed September 12-15, 2008. The survey was weighted by four variables: age, sex, geographic region and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total population. The margin of error for surveys with samples of around 1,000 respondents, at the 95 percent confidence level, is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Smaller sub-groups in any survey will have larger error margins.

ABOUT CLEAN/CIVIL SOCIETY INSTITUTE

CLEAN (http://www.theclean.org) is a collaborative movement of state and local organizations and individuals who will encourage and support policy makers at all levels of government to implement new energy policies. The Civil Society Institute worked with grassroots organizations across the United States to help organize the CLEAN campaign.

The nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org) is a think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. Since 2003, CSI has conducted more than 20 major surveys and reports on energy and auto issues, including vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, consumer demand for hybrids/ other highly-fuel efficient vehicles, global warming and renewable energy. In addition to being a co-convener of CLEAN, the Civil Society Institute also is the parent organization of 40MPG.org (http://www.40MPG.org) and the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.HybridOwnersofAmerica.org).

CONTACT: Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266 or pmitchell@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio recording of the related CLEAN/ CSI news event will be available on the Web as of 7 p.m. EDT on September 25, 2008 at http://www.theclean.org and http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org.