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SURVEY: CONGRESS, WHITE HOUSE FOCUS ON FOSSIL FUELS, NUCLEAR POWER IS OUT OF TOUCH WITH VIEWS OF MAINSTREAM AMERICA

A Political Parade With No One Marching Behind the Banner? Even Among Republicans and Tea Party Supporters, Little Evidence of "Old Fuel Constituency" Seen; Focus on Wind and Solar Strongly Preferred by Public Over More Nuclear, Coal and Oil.



WASHINGTON, D.C.///November 3, 2011///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 - including Republicans and Tea Party supporters -- one year before the 2012 elections, according to the findings of a major survey of 1,049 Americans conducted October 21-24, 2011 by ORC International for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI).

Documenting a major gulf between the views of Americans and the Congress/White House on energy policy, the CSI survey includes the following key findings:

If Washington had to choose between fossil fuel/nuclear subsidies and wind/solar subsidies, "clean energy" aid would get support from three times more Americans than fossil fuel/nuclear energy subsidies. Only a bit more than one in 10 American adults (13 percent) - including just 20 percent of Republicans, 9 percent of Independents, 10 percent of Democrats, and only 24 percent of Tea Party supporters - are in favor of concentrating federal energy subsidies on the coal, nuclear power and natural gas industries. When it comes to focusing federal subsidies on wind and solar, 38 percent of all Americans are supportive -- about three times the support level for fossil fuel/nuclear subsidies. Only about one in 10 Americans (13 percent) - including just 26 percent of Tea Party supporters -- believes that "no energy source should receive federal subsidies."
Fossil fuel subsidies are opposed by Americans on a bipartisan basis. Six in 10 Americans - including a strikingly uniform 59 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Independents, 59 percent of Democrats, and 59 percent of Tea Party members -- oppose "federal subsidies for oil and gas, coal, natural gas and other fossil fuel companies."
Nuclear reactor loan guarantees are opposed by Americans on a bipartisan basis. More than two out of three Americans (67 percent) - including 65 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents, 68 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Tea Party backers - disagree that "taxpayers and ratepayers should provide taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear power reactors in the United States through proposed tens of billions in federal loan guarantees for new reactors."
Most Americans want the U.S. to shift federal loan guarantee support from nuclear power to wind and solar energy. About seven in 10 Americans (71 percent) - including 55 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Independents, 84 percent of Democrats, and almost half (47 percent) of Tea Party backers -- strongly or somewhat support "a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors and towards clean renewable energy such as wind and solar."
A strong majority of Americans want the U.S. to make the investments needed to be a clean energy leader on a global basis. More than three in four Americans (77 percent) - including 65 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Independents, 88 percent of Democrats, and 56 percent of Tea Party members -- agree with the following statement: "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."

Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute, said: "Americans of all political stripes have moved ahead of Washington and want our nation to make smarter choices about cleaner and safer sources of power. Common sense is the driving force in American opinion, which focuses not on whether Washington should help usher in a renewable, clean energy future, but how it should proceed in doing so. Americans believe that the energy industries have an undue influence over decisions made by Washington. They want leadership and problem solving from Washington for a clean energy future. Americans understand that we can no longer have our economy and environment tethered to 'old' energy solutions that are unsafe, unhealthy and simply unable to meet our long-term needs."

Graham Hueber, senior researcher, ORC International, said: "One clear message of this survey sit that there is no clear 'Old Fuel Constituency' in the sense of a large number of unified Americans who favor fossil fuels and nuclear power over wind and solar power. In fact, Republicans and Tea Party supporters who might seem like the most logical place for such a constituency are somewhat more likely than others to support federal subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power, but they also would prefer development of cleaner sources of energy. These are actually quite striking findings in the context of the 2012 election campaign."

The 100-percent independent CSI think tank receives no direct or indirect support of any kind from any natural gas industry interest, or any other energy-related company, organization or related individual.

OTHER SURVEY FINDINGS

Few Americans want Washington to adopt a laissez faire approach to energy issues. Only about one in four Americans (27 percent) - including 47 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Independents, 11 percent of Democrats and a surprisingly small 57 percent of Tea Party supporters -- say "Congress and the President should stay out of the energy markets and let private enterprise have a free hand in picking energy sources and setting prices."
Excessive corporate influence may explain the gap between where some in Washington are on energy policy ... and where mainstream America is. More than seven in 10 Americans (72 percent) - including 62 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents, 83 percent of Democrats, and over half of Tea Party supporters (54 percent) -- think that "America's oil, coal and natural gas companies have a disproportionate influence on Congress and the White House when it comes to making national energy policy."
Americans do not see more clean energy as a roadblock to economic recovery. More than two thirds of Americans (69 percent) - including 59 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Independents, 78 percent of Democrats and a plurality of Tea Party supporters (48 percent) - think it would be a "bad idea" for the U.S. " to 'put on hold' progress towards cleaner energy sources during the current economic difficulty."
Most Americans want continued movement away from fossil fuels. About three in four Americans (76 percent) - including 62 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, 90 percent of Democrats and half of Tea Party supporters - agree strongly or somewhat with the following statement: "Smarter energy choices are the key to creating a future that is healthy and safe because fossil fuels create toxic wastes that are a threat to our health and safety."
Most Americans would favor a moratorium on coal-fired power plants. Nearly two thirds of Americans (65 percent) - including 55 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Independents, 72 percent of Democrats, and about half (49 percent) of Tea Party backers -- would support a phase-out of coal fired power plants in the United States" if "increased energy efficiency and off the shelf renewable technologies such as wind and solar could meet our energy demands."
Concerns about water are present in America on a strongly bipartisan basis. More than three in four Americans (78 percent) - including 68 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Independents, 85 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Tea Party backers -- agree with the following statement: "Water shortages and clean drinking water are real concerns. America should put the emphasis on first developing new energy sources that require the least water and cause minimal water pollution."
Few Americans dismiss a connection between extreme weather events and climate change. Fewer than one in five Americans (17 percent) think that "climate change is not a factor" in "at least 10 weather related disasters caused by so called extreme weather - (that) have occurred so far in 2011 involving $1 billion or more each in damages - now totaling about $45 billion." Fewer than half (45 percent) of Tea Party members fall into the climate change denial camp on this question.

Other findings include the following:

Nearly three in five (58 percent) of Americans are now aware of "the natural gas drilling process sometimes referred to as 'fracking.'" About four in five Americans (79 percent) - including 66 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Independents, 91 percent of Democrats, and 55 percent of Tea Party supporters -- say they are very or somewhat concerned "about this issue (fracking) as it relates to water quality."
Roughly three out of four Americans (74 percent) - including 68 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Independents, 81 percent of Democrats, and 58 percent of Tea Party backers - agree with the following statement: "The cost of electricity paid by consumers is only part of the price of energy. We have to look at the whole picture -- including water quality, environmental damages and human health problems -- when we talk about what a particular source of energy costs America."

Full survey findings are available on online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.

METHODOLOGY

The ORC International survey for the Civil Society Institute presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted among a sample of 1,049 adults living in the Continental US. Of the total number of interviews, 250 were conducted on a cell phone and 799 were conducted on a landline phone. Interviewing for this survey was completed during the period October 21-24, 2011. Completed interviews are weighted by five variables: age, sex, geographic region, race, and education to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total population, 18 years of age and older. The margin of error on the survey is plus or minus 3 percent.

ABOUT CSI

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 25 major national and state-level surveys on a range of issues including climate change, coal, nuclear, global warming, wind and other renewable energy, vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, consumer demand for hybrids/other highly-fuel efficient vehicles, and gas prices. In addition to being a co-convener of CLEAN (www.TheClean.org), CSI also is the parent organization of the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.HybridOwnersofAmerica.org).

MEDIA CONTACT: Ailis Aaron Wolf, for CSI, (703) 276-3265 or aawolf@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of this news event will be available on the Web at www.civilsocietyinstitute.org as of 3 p.m. EDT on November 3, 2011.