Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Two-thirds of Americans want more carbon-neutral policies. They’re just not sure they want to quit fossil fuels

Our attachment to oil and gas — albeit in varying degrees — seems about the only thing Americans agree on these days.

(CN) — A majority of Americans favor a transition to more carbon-neutral energy sources like solar and wind power, but approximately the same majority believes fossil fuels will remain a part of the energy portfolio for the foreseeable future. 

Pew Research Center published a poll Tuesday showing 69% of the American public wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. However, a similar percentage (67%) of Americans favor a mixture of fossil fuels and renewable energy as the nation transitions from an entirely fossil fuel-based energy grid. 

Pew researchers note the survey was conducted before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has accelerated calls from some quarters for the United States to rid itself of its dependence on foreign oil. 

“Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots — fossil fuels — and our dependence on them,” said Svitlana Krakovska, a Ukrainian representative at a global climate meeting on Monday. U.S. Senator Robert Marshall, R-Kansas, introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban gas imports from Russia. The Biden administration has been loath to disrupt the oil market during a time of rising energy prices, but he may take a different tack in his first State of the Union address slated for Tuesday night. 

But only 31% of respondents to the Pew poll want the United States to completely divest itself of fossil fuel use.

The demographic breakdown shows that the biggest divides hew along partisan lines, unsurprising given that partisan polarization has crept into nearly every major policy issue in the United States, not the least of which is domestic energy and environmental concerns. 

“On balance, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents give greater priority to expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas than to developing alternative energy sources, and they overwhelmingly believe that fossil fuels should remain a part of the energy picture in the U.S.,” the report states. 

Indeed, about 64% of self-described conservatives expressed opposition to carbon-neutral goals centered on 2020, but the moderate wing of the party is more inclined to pursue renewable energy sources. 

About 66% of moderate or liberal Republicans favor a more carbon-neutral approach, in line with the overarching preferences of the general public. The divide within the GOP continues as it relates to the question of whether to transition to more renewable energies like wind and solar or to expand natural gas and coal development. 

“Sixty-four percent of moderate and liberal Republicans say it should be developing alternative sources such as wind and solar, whereas 67% of conservative Republicans say it should be expanding production of oil, coal and natural gas,” the report states. 

Democrats tend to agree on the questions, although there is a divide over whether to divest completely from natural gas and coal. 

But 94% of self-described liberals want to see the country move to a carbon-neutral future by 2050 and 88% of the moderate Democrats want the same. However, only 37% of the moderate wing wants to see fossil fuels phased out completely, versus 63% of liberals who want to see oil and natural gas removed entirely. 

There is less disagreement about whether the United States should play a role in addressing issues related to global climate change, with 75% of respondents saying the nation should participate in efforts to combat rising temperatures. 

But disagreement reigns as to whether the country is doing enough at present. About one-third of respondents said the United States should be doing more to grapple with a changing climate, while another third of respondents say it should do the same and the last third saying the nation should do less. 

The survey contacted about 10,000 people from Jan. 24 through Jan. 30 and has a margin of error of 1.5 points. 

Follow @@MatthewCRenda
Categories / Environment, National

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.