Poll shows majority of Americans support alternative energy over fossil fuels

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014

A majority of Americans favor alternative energy over fossil fuels and support energy conservation policies, a new poll shows.

According to a Gallup poll released yesterday, 64 percent of Americans prefer wind, solar and other alternative energy sources over oil, coal and gas — a 5 percent increase from 2013.

Support for alternative energy was especially high among people between the ages of 18 and 34. In that age group, 80 percent of survey respondents said they would rather see an increase in alternative energy production over continued fossil fuel development, the poll found.

But interest in alternative energy production is also growing among Americans over the age of 55. Of those, 49 percent said they back nontraditional energy sources, according to the poll.

The poll of 1,048 randomly selected adults was taken March 6-9 and had a 4-point error margin.

“Investing in renewable energy makes tremendous sense, and the vast majority of Americans agree,” wrote Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, in an email.

The poll also found widespread support for environmentally friendly policies, with 57 percent of Americans saying they back energy conservation measures, compared to 34 percent who would rather see increased energy production.

Support for energy conservation increased from 48 percent in 2011, the low-water mark since Gallup began asking the question in 2001. During the past 13 years, enthusiasm for energy conservation actually peaked near the end of the George W. Bush administration, when 64 percent of Americans said in 2007 that they thought consumers should try to conserve existing energy supplies.

The Gallup survey also found that by and large, Americans support stricter greenhouse gas emission standards and more oversight over hydraulic fracturing, a drilling method used to extract oil and natural gas that critics say leads to air and water pollution.

Overall, 64 percent of those polled said they support the stricter enforcement of federal environmental regulations, compared to 34 percent who said they oppose more government oversight.

That finding contradicts a popular claim by Republicans that most Americans don’t support U.S. EPA regulations.

“This is one poll every single politician should study very carefully,” Resch said.

But some environmentalists said they don’t expect GOP lawmakers to reduce their attacks on EPA, despite the evidence that a majority of voters support environmental protection efforts.

“I’m highly encouraged that the American public is finally taking these issues seriously,” said Ann Dasovich, a Florida Wildlife Federation board member. “But right now, we’re not at a tipping point [yet].”