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Pew Poll: Two-Thirds of Americans Don’t Want To Phase Out Fossil Fuels

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More Americans are having regular conversations about climate change and believe we should be doing more about it. But that doesn’t necessarily include phasing out fossil fuels, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

The poll, which was conducted in April and surveyed more than 13,000 U.S. adults, found the majority of Americans (64 percent) favor using a mix of energy resources to meet demand rather than phasing fossil fuels completely out of our economy.

The sentiment was true across age groups: While support for the continued use of fossil fuels was stronger among older generations, more than half of Gen Z and Millennials responded similarly.

Further, while nearly all respondents (92 percent) said protecting the environment for future generations is important to them personally in policies to tackle climate change, the poll showed that’s not the only consideration that needs to be taken. Almost as many respondents believe that increasing jobs and economic growth and keeping consumer costs low are also important – 91 percent of adults placed high value on these factors.

From the poll, it’s clear that Americans recognize the pivotal role that oil and natural gas continues to play in our economy and overall way of life. It also demonstrates that while nearly everyone agrees that policies to address climate change need to focus on improving the environment – a given – they can’t be developed in a silo that ignores the implications of those actions on U.S. workers and consumers.

That’s not an either-or scenario as innovations in the private sector have shown. Through the use of technologies like carbon capture and improved leak detection and monitoring, it’s more than possible to reduce emissions without decreasing the U.S. domestic energy supply.

The United States continues to demonstrate this as a global leader in reducing emissions, while simultaneously producing more oil and natural gas than the rest of the world.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 2, 2021

The poll, which was conducted in April and surveyed more than 13,000 U.S. adults, found the majority of Americans (64 percent) favor using a mix of energy resources to meet demand rather than phasing fossil fuels completely out of our economy.

Seems to be an inherently skewed question-- what was the timeframe given? If someone asks if we should phase out all fossil fuels in the next 10 years or "use a mix" during that timeframe, for example, I imagine most people would recognize how insurmountable a 10 year phaseout would be and so the rational answer would be to use a mix...for now. 

This isn't people indicating they think fossil fuels should stick around for good or in great quantities, it indicates an understanding of the inertia behind the decarbonization process. 

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Bob Meinetz on Jun 2, 2021

@MattI had the same thoughts, and I'll add a few of my own (did you ever doubt I would?).

First, it should be noted the poll is being spun by the Independent Petroleum Association of America to sell their climate-killing products. For example, the poll also shows 62% of Americans believe the energy industry is "doing too little to help reduce the effects of global climate change". It shows that overall, Americans believe protecting the environment for future generations is more important than increasing jobs and economic growth, or keeping consumer prices low.

Under Pew's banner, "Energy in Depth" goes on to make several unsupportable assertions, claiming "it’s clear that Americans recognize the pivotal role that oil and natural gas continues to play in our economy and overall way of life", and "it’s more than possible to reduce emissions without decreasing the U.S. domestic energy [oil and gas] supply". They then show a graph that has nothing to do with the poll, based on unsupported data, that attempts to portray America, with among the highest per-capita carbon emissions, as "a world leader in carbon reductions."

The U.S., as the second-largest carbon polluter in the world, has a long, long, long way to go, and it starts by leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

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