Survey Says Americans Ready to End Fuel Addiction

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WASHINGTON, D.C. October 18, 2007–Americans may be addicted to coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels today, but a new national opinion survey makes it clear that the public is ready to go “cold turkey” and put an end to its costly and environmentally harmful dependence on fossil fuels.

The Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) poll of more than 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted for Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN) -– a new effort by clean power and coalfield state grassroots organizations facilitated by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) — found strong support for such significant steps as: a five-year moratorium on new coal-fired power plants; increased investments and tax credits for stepped-up renewable energy production; greater emphasis on energy efficiency in all new construction; a sharp jump in federal mile per gallon (MPG) fuel efficiency standards; and changes in personal energy consumption patterns. The grassroots groups active in CLEAN are now are circulating a comprehensive national “call to action” on energy policy for endorsement by other grassroots organizations across the U.S.

Key survey highlights include:

* More than four of five Americans (84 percent) –- including 78 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Independents — agree with “a national energy strategy based on a ‘phasing in’ of new technologies and a ‘phasing out’ of carbon based energy sources … America should commit to a five-year moratorium on new coal-fired plants and, instead, focus on aggressive expansion of wind, solarand other renewable energy sources. Tax and other incentives should be provided for all new construction to help reduce energy consumption. Homeowners should get incentives to make their homes more energy efficient to help reduce energy demands.”

* Only 15 percent of Americans think the federal or state governments should be investing in “converting U.S. coal into diesel fuel or synthetic natural gas.” By contrast, 66 percent of Americans –- including 53 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents – say “if the government is going to invest in an energy solution, it should be in renewable technologies such as wind and solar … and only in the context of conservation steps designed to eliminate the wasting of energy.”

* Over four out of five Americans (81 percent) –- including 77 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Independents– would “favor state and federal tax incentives for new construction that uses available home energy-efficiency technologies and construction methods in the United States in order to decrease heating and coolingenergy consumption and related bills for consumers.”

* Three out of four Americans –- including 68 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Independents — think “President Bush and Congress should increase the federal fuel-efficiency standard now to 40 MPG,” rather than waiting to achieve more modest fuel-efficiency increases over a longer period of time.

Civil Society Institute President and Founder Pam Solo said: “The American public is way ahead of the politicians today in recognizing the serious threat posed by global warming and the need for immediate and comprehensive national energy policy changes. It is apparent from this survey that there is a huge appetite today among Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike for leadership and problem solving that comes from both sides of the aisle. Americans don’t want Congress to tinker at the margins on energy and the climate policy. Americans support a path that begins with a moratorium on new coal fired plants accompanied by heavy investment in clean power and energy and fuel efficiency. Oil is costly and scarce. Coal is a local hazard to coalfield states and a global threat to the environment. There is no such thing as clean coal and it is time for the country to invest in a clean energy future.”

Dr. James E. Hansen, director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (1), The Earth Institute at Columbia University, said: “I support a moratorium on construction of coal-fired power plants. This is, by far, the most important thing that must be done to stop global warming. Can we solve the global warming problem? Yes! Indeed, this problem presents great opportunities, as new clean energies will create many high-pay jobs. But we must recognize the problem, understand it, and address it sensibly. It will not be easy, because there are powerful special interests that wouldprefer not to act. They don’t care much about the planet we leave for our children and grandchildren. They care more about their six month profits. And they have sway in Washington … The public must lead in the solution of the global warming problem. Special interests may have wounded our democracy, but it is still alive and well enough.”

Ohio Valley Environmental coalition Co-Director Janet Keating said: “Many people are not aware of the extreme human and environmental costs of coal that’s mined in central Appalachia – a sacrifice zone for the nation’s so-called “cheap” energy. Nowadays, coal companies use powerful explosives to blast mountaintops, lowering them as much as 800 feet. They bury vital headwater streams under millions of tons of mining waste. Mountaintop removal mining has already annihilated hundreds of thousands of acres of some of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world – with more than an additional million acres slated for destruction. This mining technique is destroying and displacing entire human communities, eroding the unique mountain culture of our state. Additionally, people who refuse to sell their homes face numerous problems including contamination or loss of drinking water, associated health problems, blasting damage to their homes, flooding, coal waste impoundment leaks, and fear of coal sludge impoundment failures. The last thing the people in central Appalachia need is the construction of additional coal-fired power plants, which would only heal more destruction on our land and people.”

Opinion Research Corporation Senior Researcher Graham Hueber said: “What is striking in these survey findings is that there is strong bipartisan support on an across-the-board basis for such a diverse range of national energy policy steps, including electricity generation, vehicle mileage, building standards and personal energy consumption habits. It is telling that there is majority support on nearly every major question from Republicans, Democrats and Independents. This appears to suggest that those politicians who downplay the science and need for action on global warming are genuinely out of step with the vast majority of Americans, regardless of what their political party affiliations might be.”

NATIONAL CALL TO ACTION

The preamble to the detailed, step-by-step “call to action” nowbeing circulated through CLEAN by the initiating grassroots groups to other local and regional groups across American reads in part: “The challenges posed by global warming can be solved through determined action and innovative thinking. We need to phase out fuels, technologies, and practices that contribute to global warming and phase in fuels, technologies and practices that move us toward solutions … We call on the U.S. government to take decisive action to stop global warming and climate change. Our government should act immediately using all the tools at our nation’s disposal … It is not too late! It can be done! It will not happen without the American people demanding action of governments and businesses – and taking personal action wherever possible!”

The list of groups initiating the “call to action” are as follows: Save Our Cumberland Mountains (Tennessee); Ohio Valley Environmental Council (West Virginia); Cook Inlet Keeper (Alaska); Christians for the Mountains (West Virginia); Coal River Mountain Watch (West Virginia); Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (Kentucky); Civil Society Institute (Massachusetts); Clean Power Now (Massachusetts); Indigenous Environmental Network (Minnesota); Castle Mountain Coalition (Alaska); Citizens Action Coalition (Indiana); Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment (West Virginia); Appalachian Voices (NC); and Rhode Island Wind Alliance (Rhode Island).

To sign the CLEAN “call to action,” go to http://www.CleanEnergyAction.net on the Web.

KEY SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS

Other major findings of the CLEAN survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation include the following:

* Roughly nine out of 10 Americans (88 percent) –- including over half (53 percent) who agree strongly –- think that “the reliance on fossil fuels is the product of the industrial revolution of the 19th and early 20th centuries” and that it is time for “our nation to start thinking in terms of the concept of a “new industrial revolution,”one that is characterized by the orderly phasing out of fossil fuels and the phasing in of clean, renewable energy sources – many of which are available now, such as wind and solar for electricity, hybrid and clean diesel technologies for cars”.

* Americans recognize the need to act now on global warming. Only 12 percent say “global warming is a problem and we have plenty of time to figure out the solutions.” By contrast, 70 percent of Americans –including 75 percent of women and 64 percent of men – said “global warming is a problem and we have limited time to figure out the solutions to it.” Additionally, 55 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Independents think the time for action on global warming is now. Only 4 percent of Americans think it is too late to do anything about global warming.

* More than two out of three Americans (67 percent) –- including 53 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Independents — say we need leadership on global warming from Washington, D.C. because it is a national problem that will require national solutions. Only 13 percent of Americans think that current state and local leadership on global warming is sufficient.

* More than two out of five Americans (42 percent) –- including 48 percent of Republicans, 33 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Independents — think that an Independent is more likely to “take decisive leadership on the problems of global warming” than Democrats (36 percent) or Republicans (10 percent). Interestingly, only 58 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Republicans see their own parties as being likely to exercise decisive leadership on climate issues. However, most Americans have a small degree of confidence (43 percent) or no confidence at all (28 percent) that current elected officials will act decisively on global warming issues. By contrast, a total of only 25 percent of Americans have a good or very high degree of confidence this will happen.

* 80 percent of Americans –- including 70 percent of Republicans, 88percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Independents — agree that “the effects of global warming require that we take timely and decisive steps for renewable, safe and clean energy sources. We need transitional technologies on our path to energy independence. There are tough choices to be made and tradeoffs. We cannot afford to postpone decisions since there are no perfect options.”

* If Americans could tell their power company/utility “where to get the power to run your house,” nearly three out of five (58 percent) would say “use wind, solar and other clean-energy technologies,”26 percent had no preference. 11 percent picked nuclear power and only 3percent opted for “coal-generated power.” Women are more likely than men to support wind/solar power (66 percent versus 49 percent), whereas men are much more likely than women to express interest in nuclear power (17 percent versus 6 percent). Nearly one in five Republicans (19 percent) picked nuclear power, versus 6 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Independents. Coal finds few friends along partisan lines: Republicans (4 percent); Democrats (3 percent); and Independents (3 percent).

* Nearly two out of three Americans (65 percent) think “the United States is behind other nations in the research and development of new technologies, but we should be the world leader in global warming solutions — and get the resulting benefits of taking action. Only 24 percent think the U.S. is behind but that “we should just focus on ‘playing catch up’ to other countries.” More than four out of five Americans (81 percent) –- including 72 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Independents — think the U.S. should “lead by example” and reject the notion of waiting on global warming action until other nations – such as China and India also act.

* Awareness varies among Americans about “the problems that can be associated with the mining of coal used by coal-fired power plants that generate electricity.” While 89 percent of Americans had heard of coal mine collapses causing injury and death to miners, awareness levels were much lower for water pollution due to mining techniques such as coal sludge (60 percent), floods resulting from trees and other vegetation beings tripped away during the mining process (55 percent), mountain top removal coal mining (53 percent). One in 20 Americans said that they were unaware of any of these problems.

* Only about one in four Americans (24 percent) think “coal-fired power plants are not necessarily linked to global warming — we should continue to use them.” By contrast, a majority of Americans (53 percent)say “coal-fired power plants are dirty and contribute to global warming — we need to reduce the number of them through increased energy efficiency and available clean-energy technologies, such as wind and solar. That share of Americans is more than three times larger than the group (16 percent) who say “coal-fired power plants are dirty and contribute to global warming, but we should continue to use them.

* About nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) – including 50 percent who say “definitely yes” – are “prepared to reduce energy demand and global-warming pollution from electricity – generating power plants by taking additional personal energy-efficiency steps” at home. Support for personal action is a largely bipartisan proposition,including 85 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Independents.

* About nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) would favor “enhanced home energy-efficiency standards for new homes and other construction in the United States in order to decrease heating and cooling energy consumption and related bills for consumers.” Nearly three out of four Americans (73 percent) would favor “federal legislation that sets a uniform building code in order to establish national standards that will reduce energy demand and help to create the conditions for phasing out fossil fuels such as coal.”

* About three out of four Americans (74 percent) –- including 63 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Independents — would support “using a significant portion of those federal funds generated from gasoline sales to accelerate research and development into alternative fuel and energy sources that could reduce dependence on Middle East oil and also cut global warming pollution.” Just over half of Americans (53 percent) –- including 43 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Independents — would support a hike in federal gasoline taxes “if the increase was earmarked specifically for research and development for clean, alternative energy sources. Among such people, 71 percent would support up to a dime tax increases.

* More than four out of five Americans (81 percent) -– including 52 percent who feel strongly about it — agree that “we need higher federal fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles now in order to conserve more energy, making us less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, and to reduce the ill effects of global warming.”

* About three out of four Americans (74 percent) –- including 71 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Independents — agree with the following statement: “I am concerned that American automakers are falling further and further behind European, Japanese and Asian car companies when it comes to new fuel-saving technology and other advances. America can’t afford to lose the jobs and investments that would be jeopardized if Detroit allowed itself to be overrun by foreign competitors.” Only 10 percent of Americans strongly disagree with the statement.

For full survey findings, please go to http://www.CleanEnergyAction.net.

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