A&M poll finds support for renewables, but not gasoline taxes

A new poll by Texas A&M University shows that most Americans support developing renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency, even tax cuts for companies that develop renewable energy technologies.

But support for energy efficiency drops if it means raising the price of gasoline.

While 78 percent of people strongly favor better fuel efficiency for cars and trucks, more than 68 percent oppose increasing the price of gasoline in order to encourage energy savings.

The Texas A&M University National Energy Opinion Poll, conducted by the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the university’s Bush School of Government and Public Service and the A&M Energy Institute, was conducted online last spring and included responses from 1,525 U.S. residents.

It found that 59 percent of people support increased funding for research and development of renewable energy sources, said John Pappas, associate director of the  A&M Energy Institute.

Sixty percent support tax cuts for companies to develop renewable energy technologies, while just 38.7 percent favor tax cuts to companies that increase domestic oil and gas exploration.

Renewable sources of energy also drew higher support when people were asked which sources should be focused upon to increase electric generation, with 37.1 percent preferring solar, 20.8 percent wind and 7.9 percent hydroelectric. Among conventional sources, 18.3 percent chose natural gas, 8.6 percent nuclear energy and 7.3 percent coal.

The poll offered clear evidence that the public has limited
understanding of hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique that has drawn both attention and opposition — especially  in some parts of the United States where oil and gas  historically hasn’t been produced.
Just 21.36 percent of respondents said they knew “a lot” about hydraulic fracturing, while 43.12 percent said they knew “a little” about the technique. The other 35.52 percent said they knew “nothing at all” about it.

Hydraulic fracturing has prompted protests in some parts of the country amid concerns that it can lead to air pollution and contamination of drinking water. But Arnold Vedlitz, director of the Institute for Science Technology and Public Policy, said the lack of knowledge indicates the public is still “relatively neutral regarding support for strict government regulation.”

Overall, Pappas said, the poll indicates people want more information about energy.

“There’s an opening here for factual, balanced information,” he said. “People want to get educated.”