After previous attempts failed, Democrats are now plan to push clean energy legislation through the Senate by a simple majority
This article is reproduced from the article of the author “Eduardo Garcia”
The vast majority of Americans support federal plans to decarbonize the electricity sector, an effort that will allow the U.S. to slash greenhouse gas emissions, a new poll says.1
The study by Third Way—a center-left think tank—indicates that a majority of likely voters in all 50 states endorse clean energy and that support is strong in both red and blue states.1 Its release comes as Democrats struggle to push clean energy legislation through Congress.
“I think this study is a reminder for congressmen and women that in their states, the majority of voters are supportive of Biden’s goal to move the power sector to 100% clean energy,” Lindsey Walter, the deputy director of Third Way’s climate and energy program, tells Treehugger.
Walter notes this “baseline of support for clean electricity” bodes well for Biden, who unveiled a plan in April to decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035. To be clear, this plan would imply that solar and wind energy would become mainstream but natural gas and nuclear would continue to play a significant role in electricity generation over the next three decades.
For the plan to succeed, Congress needs to pass a clean energy standard (CES) requiring utility companies to gradually increase the amount of clean energy they source from power companies until they reach 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. A CES is seen as an essential tool to strongarm utilities into buying more renewable power, especially after the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced this week that coal-fired electricity generation is set to increase in the U.S. this year.
But despite several attempts, Democratic lawmakers have failed to push a CES through Congress. Democrats were forced to drop plans for a CES that was set to be included in the infrastructure package amid opposition from Republicans, but the White House has reportedly introduced a CES-like plan in a $3.5 trillion partisan budget reconciliation package that Democrats want to get passed by a simple majority vote in the Senate.
Such an effort faces multiple challenges, in large part because it would require support from every single Democratic Senator and will likely be opposed by Republicans.
Support in red states
The Third Way study, which is based on a survey of 20,455 individuals, indicates that more than 70% of likely voters back clean energy in California, Washington, and New York, all of which voted for Biden.1
But support for clean energy is also high in traditionally red states with links to the fossil fuel industry, such as Texas (60.8%), Indiana (60.1%), and Iowa (62%); as well as in Pennsylvania (64%), Arizona (62%), and Georgia (60.8%), swing states that could determine which party controls the Senate following the mid-term elections.1
“I think that our poll shows that Republican policymakers are a bit out of touch with what the majority of voters in their states are wanting,” Walter says.
Support for renewable energy in Wyoming and West Virginia, two coal-producing states, is lower, at 52% and 53%, respectively; and some congressional districts in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, and Kentucky oppose the green energy transition, the poll shows.1
Many people endorse clean energy because they are concerned about climate change, but “we’ve found that local benefits in terms of health, local air, water quality, jobs, and economic growth are often the reasons why Americans support clean electricity even though they may not necessarily be climate action champions,” Walter said.
Other studies suggest that the decarbonization of the electricity sector is still a partisan issue. According to a Pew Research study released in June, more than 90% of Democrats support expanding renewable energy but only 73% of GOP voters support “increasing reliance on solar power” and 62% support more wind power.2
“The partisan gaps on expanding solar (20 percentage points) and wind power (29 points) are now larger than at any point since the Center started asking about these energy sources in 2016,” the Pew Research said.
Interestingly, Republicans seem to be keener on solar than wind. “About eight-in-ten Democrats (82%) say generating electricity from wind turbine farms is better for the environment, while a minority of Republicans (45%) say this,” Pew Research said.
It’s isn’t clear why Republicans seem to favor solar over wind but it could be because former President Donald Trump is a fierce critic of wind turbines. He once falsely claimed that the sound of wind turbines can cause cancer.