News ID: 192947
Published: 0957 GMT 17 May 2017

US public divides over environmental regulation, energy policy

US public divides over environmental regulation, energy policy

Amid major debates over energy and environmental policy changes, Americans tilt toward supporting government regulations as the best way to encourage renewable energy development, believe that reliance on solar and wind power are effective in minimizing pollution, and are less convinced that pro-coal and pro-oil policies are viable antipollution strategies.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 83 percent of Americans say increasing use of renewable energy sources is a top or important priority for the country’s energy policies. This is one of several considerations the American public thinks should be a priority for the country’s energy policies, pewinternet.org wrote.

A majority of US adults (54 agree that “Government regulations are necessary to encourage businesses and consumers to rely more on renewable energy sources.” Meanwhile, 38 percent back the statement, “The private marketplace will ensure that businesses and consumers rely more on renewable energy sources, even without government regulations.”

But the public is divided on the core question shaping the debates in the early period of the Trump administration: Is it possible to cut back environmental regulations and still effectively protect water and air quality? Some 49 percent think it is possible to trim regulations and still protect air and water, while 47 percent believe it is not possible to protect those resources with fewer regulations. These views differ widely by political party.

The survey shows that 54 percent of US adults believe the Trump administration is doing too little to protect the environment, while 30 percent think the administration is doing 'about the right amount' and 5 percent believe it is doing too much.

One consistent theme in the public’s views about these issues is that Americans as a whole support giving priority to both environmental and economic dimensions of energy policy. For example, roughly half of Americans say each of the following should be a 'top priority':

● Protecting the environment from the effects of energy development and use (53 percent say it should be a 'top priority')

● Increasing reliance on renewable energy sources (52 percent)

● Creating jobs within the energy sector (49 percent)

● Keeping consumer energy prices low (49 percent)

● Reducing dependence on foreign energy sources (48 percent)

There are largely predictable partisan differences in the public’s answers on most of these energy and environment issues, but in some cases there are no divides between partisan groups or only modest ones.

The public is fairly united in believing that renewable energy sources are effective in minimizing air pollution:

● 88 percent say solar power is 'very effective' (68 percent) or 'somewhat effective' (20 percent) in minimizing air pollution.

● 84 percent think wind power is very effective (63 percent) or somewhat effective (21 percent) in minimizing pollution.

Americans are less confident about whether other energy sources are effective in minimizing air pollution: 28 percent say nuclear power is 'very effective,' though more, at 55 percent, consider nuclear power at least 'somewhat effective' in minimizing air pollution. Some 72 percent of adults believe natural gas is 'very' (30 percent) or 'somewhat effective' (42 percent) in minimizing air pollution. Minorities consider either oil (41 percent) or coal (34 percent) at least somewhat effective in minimizing air pollution.

   
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