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Public favors renewable energy funding

Renewable energy technologies, like wind power, should receive the bulk of research and development funds according to a recent survey of Americans   

June 4, 1999
Web posted at: 11:10 AM EDT

Americans believe renewable energy and energy efficiency should be given funding priority by the Department of Energy, according to a national survey released Thursday by a sustainable energy group. The survey also indicated that those polled believe nuclear power and fossil fuels should be the first technologies subject to funding cuts.

The survey results directly contradict House and Senate appropriation committees votes May 25 to cut Department of Energy programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency and increase funding for nuclear and fossil fuels programs.

The survey was performed by Research/Strategy/Management Inc. of Sterling, Va., from May 10-18 and included a sample of 1,029 adult Americans.

The survey was commissioned by the Sustainable Energy Coalition, a group of 35 national business, environmental and consumer organizations dedicated to promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. This was the seventh public opinion survey commissioned by the coalition.

When asked which of five research and development areas in the Department of Energy should receive the highest funding priority, 37 percent said renewable energy; 25 percent said technologies to improve energy efficiency and conservation; 7 percent said natural gas; 8 percent said fossil fuels such as oil, gasoline and coal; and 8 percent said nuclear power.

On the other hand, 31 percent of respondents selected nuclear power as the first research and development program that should be subject to budget cuts followed by fossil fuels at 21 percent. Only 5 percent would cut funding for energy efficiency research and development while just 9 percent would reduce the renewable energy budget.

Other key findings include:

  • 78 percent of respondents support including a renewable energy portfolio standard that requires 10 percent of electricity be generated from solar, wind, geothermal and biomass sources as part of federal electric utility restructuring legislation.
  • 59 percent favor creating a public benefits fund, supported by a 2-3 percent surcharge on utility bills, to fund energy efficiency, low-income energy assistance, and renewable energy R&D programs.
  • 89 percent said electricity providers should be required to tell their customers the type of fuel being used to generate electricity as well as the type and amounts of air pollutants being emitted.
  • 76 percent believe electric utility shareholders, and not their customers, should be required to pay off the cost of uneconomic nuclear power plants as the utility industry is deregulated.
  • 80 percent of respondents favor tax incentives to increase the use of renewable energy for the production of electricity either strongly (45 percent] or at least somewhat (36 percent).
  • 77 percent support incentives for the purchase of automobiles that are at least twice as energy efficient as the average new car either strongly (46 percent) or at least somewhat (31 percent).
  • 83 percent support tax incentives to spur the purchase of new homes that are at least 30 percent more energy efficient than the average new home either strongly (51 percent) or at least somewhat (32 percent).
  • 84 percent of those surveyed believe tax incentives should be made available to encourage the purchase of home heating and cooling systems that are at least 30 percent more energy-efficient with a majority (51 percent) agreeing strongly and another third (33 percent) agreeing at least somewhat.
It is no surprise that the Sustainable Energy Coalition would be touting the results of this survey, but the approach they took to construct the survey may come as a surprise. They selected a Republican polling firm, according to Ken Bossong of the SUN DAY Campaign, a coalition member, and asked the pollster to prepare the questions in such a way that they would focus interest away from their desired results. The people surveyed were also less than a sympathetic audience, said Bossong.

Copies of the 50-page survey, "America Speaks Out on Energy: Budget Priorities, Electric Utility Restructuring, and Tax Incentives" are available for $15 (pre-paid) from the coalition, 315 Circle Avenue, #2; Takoma Park, Md. 20912-4836.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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Sustainable Energy Coalition
Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The Civil Nuclear Industry
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