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Category — Opinion polls (renewables)

Three Questions About Renewable Energy (false choices skew public opinion poll)

Several months ago, renewable energy advocates hailed a poll as unquestionably demonstrating the public’s support of renewable energy resources. However, answers to follow-up questions showed that the public’s willingness to pay for increased renewable energy is lukewarm at best. Therein lies the fickle support for government-dependent energy path that shines is one thing in the abstract and another in the real world.

The Financial Times/Harris poll, conducted online by Harris Interactive, surveyed household members who pay the energy bill each month in France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, and the U.S. between September 15 and 21, 2010. They were asked three questions about their support of renewable energy.

Question 1: More Wind

The first question was, “How much do you favour or oppose a large increase in the number of wind farms in [your country]?” The expected strong support was evident with 87% of U.S. respondents marking either “favor more than oppose” or “strongly favor”; Europeans responded with similarly high percentages.

Without context, some advocates concluded the poll results were a public mandate for wind farms. Peter Kelley, a spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), said in The Hill (October 28): “There are few things in this world that get 87 percent of support from the American public.” He then asserted that a national renewable electricity standard (RES) would lower energy bills by driving down the cost of natural gas. “When asked whether they want to pay more, well, they don’t have to pay more,” Kelley stated.

The story is the other wary around. New wind project start-ups in 2010 were a fraction of those in 2009 even with extremely favorable tax treatment. Why? Investors are migrating to more lucrative opportunities in other industries. The key reason wind installations are becalmed is not for lack of government mandates but because the price for natural gas is low. (Ask T. Boone Pickens.) After all, tax credits for investors aren’t particularly helpful unless your company is profitable. [Read more →]

February 8, 2011   2 Comments