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Poll: White House, Congressional Leadership on Clean Energy, Water is High Priority for Bipartisan Majority of Americans

Public Has Major Concerns About Expanded Shale Gas Fracking for Exporting to Other Nations; 

"Clean Water First" is Clear Choice When Public Weighs Options for More U.S. Energy Production.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Americans are not opposed to more domestic energy production, but they are unwilling to achieve it by sacrificing clean water, increased energy efficiency, and expanded wind and solar power in the process, according to a major new ORC International survey conducted for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI) and Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Available at http://www.AmericanCleanEnergyAgenda.org, the December 26-29, 2012 poll of 809 respondents gauges the views of Americans about broad energy production issues and also zeroes in on the recent controversy about the expanded shale gas fracking that would be needed to make possible large-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to China and other countries.

Key survey findings on broad energy issues include the following:

  • 94 percent of Americans – including 92 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Independents, and 98 percent of Democrats – want political leadership on balancing calls for more energy production in U.S. with protecting clean water and air.
  • 91 percent of Americans feel it is important that their member of Congress demonstrate leadership on a "national agenda for clean energy and protecting America's water and air."   The vast majority of Republicans (85 percent), Independents (87 percent), and Democrats (96 percent) agree on the need for such leadership.
  • 92 percent of Americans think "U.S. energy planning and decision making" should be based on "a comprehensive understanding of what our national water resources are" – a national water roadmap that Congress asked for, but which was never produced.   The national water roadmap attracts the support of 92 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 94 percent of Democrats.
  • 86 percent of Americans want leadership on shifting from coal and nuclear energy to wind and solar.  Support for this approach exists across party lines, including 72 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats.

On fracking and LNG exports, key poll findings include:

  • 62 percent of Americans oppose "expanding U.S. production of shale gas for use by other nations" first before the health research is done, as recommended recently by more than 100 U.S. health professionals.    This approach is supported by about half (49 percent) of Republicans, and over two thirds of Independents and Democrats, at 67 percent and 69 percent, respectively.
  • 88 percent of Americans want leadership when it comes to exercising caution on exporting energy – such as natural gas – that could boost China and other economies, but hurt U.S. consumers by raising energy and manufacturing costs at home.  Nearly identical support levels were seen here along partisan lines:  88 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Independents, 87 percent of Democrats.
  • 86 percent of Americans "support more studies of the health and environmental consequences of the chemicals" used in fracking.  Supporters of this approach include 81 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, and 89 percent of Democrats.
  • Three quarters of Americans have heard of fracking, with 51 percent saying they are very or somewhat familiar with it.  79 percent of Americans are concerned about fracking "as it relates to water quality."   

Pam Solo, president and founder, Civil Society Institute, said:  "This survey should be a wake-up call for federal elected officials.  The polling data we are releasing today should give pause to decision makers who assume the American public will support energy policies without regard to consequences or the impact these choices have on safe drinking water.  The voracious appetite that conventional energy such as gas, oil, coal and nuclear power has on water availability is increasingly a problem for many parts of the country.  When given a menu of choices and not asked a simple 'yes or no' question, Americans weigh our options and come down in favor of increased energy efficiency and low environmental impact and healthier energy futures such as wind and solar power.  The distance between what the public values and where political decision makers are headed should be seen as an opportunity for real leadership at the federal level.  Energy policy is at the heart of our economic prosperity, public health, and national security.  And Americans overwhelmingly want a voice that can counter the undue influence of the energy industries that have a stake in business as usual."

"The takeaway from this important poll is that access to clean, safe drinking water is first and foremost on Americans' minds as we dive headlong into a new era of energy production in the United States," said Heather White, executive director at Environmental Working Group.   "Americans are concerned about water quality, but also water availability when they look at how much is used in the quest for domestic sources of energy.  Shale gas drilling or 'fracking', nuclear energy and coal production use vast amounts of the natural resource we the people need to survive. That is why the overwhelming majority of Americans want leaders in Washington to shift from coal and nuclear to wind and solar energy.  Given the gridlock on Capitol Hill even on its basic responsibilities like avoiding the 'fiscal cliff,' most Americans understand that it'll be up to the public to push the federal government and the country on a truly clean energy path."

Wayne Russum, senior vice president, ORC International, said:  "This new survey shows that Americans are fine with more energy production in the U.S., but they are not willing to trade away clean water and air to make it happen.   The poll findings indicate that Americans want political leadership that takes a balanced approach to production of energy – protecting clean water and air, and also promoting expanded energy efficiency and clean energy sources.  Significantly, views are largely the same regardless of whether Americans are asked in the 'abstract' about general energy issues or when the focus shifts to a concrete energy issue, such as shale gas fracking or the exporting of liquefied natural gas."

Anthony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum professor of engineering, Cornell University, and president, Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy, said:  "These poll findings clearly indicate that Americans, regardless of political affiliation, can differentiate between a fossil fuel corporate business plan and a national clean-energy-now policy. They overwhelmingly recognize that the continued absence of such a policy invites continued threats to clean water and air, and accelerated global warming.  They can see through the charade of LNG exports for what  they would be: another fossil fuel industry afterthought that seeks to restore profitability to the shale gas industry at the expense of further abuse of the environment and human health."

Other key survey findings include the following:

  • 86 percent of Americans think "the availability of ample clean drinking water should be a top national priority in the U.S."
  • 80 percent of Americans think we "should get the facts first about health and environmental risks before the potential damage is done by energy production."  This "precautionary principle" approach is supported by 67 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Independents, and 89 percent of Democrats.
  • 86 percent of Americans want leadership on addressing climate change and extreme weather.  Relatively little partisan difference is seen on this point, with support for action coming from 75 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Independents, and 95 percent of Democrats.
  • Only 17 percent of Americans favor development of U.S. energy resources for export purposes "to advance U.S. interests as a global economic power" versus 81 percent who think "America should produce enough energy to meet America's needs in a way that doesn't harm our clean water and air …"
  • How concerned are Americans about the possible impact of "drought and shortages brought on by the diversion of water for energy and other purposes?"
    • 91 percent are concerned about higher food prices.
    • 90 percent are concerned about "possible shortages of safe drinking water."  More than three out of four Americans (76 percent) are "very concerned" about such shortages.
    • 89 percent are concerned about higher gasoline prices.
    • 87 percent are concerned about increased water utility bills.
    • 73 percent are concerned about diminished recreation opportunities.
  • 74 percent think a grassroots movement will be needed "to counter the influence of energy industry lobbyists and campaign contributions on politicians in Washington, D.C."
  • 86 percent of Americans want leadership on standing up to pressure from coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power lobbyists.

On October 15, 2012, 100 grassroots organizations with roughly 2,000,000 members nationwide issued a "First 100 Days" clean energy agenda for the next President of the United States.  The full text of the agenda is available online at http://www.AmericanCleanEnergyAgenda.org.  The "American Clean Energy Agenda" was first agreed on in outline form by participating groups in June 2012.

ORC International conducted the telephone survey among two national probability samples, which, when combined, consisted of 809 adults, 426 men and 383 women 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States.  Interviewing was completed on December 26-29, 2012.  A total of 529 interviews were from the landline sample and 280 interviews from the cell phone sample.   The margin of error for the combined samples is plus or minus 3 percent.

Based in Newton, MA, the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org) is a think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. Since 2003, CSI has conducted more than 25 major national and state-level surveys and reports on energy and auto issues, including vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, consumer demand for hybrids/other highly-fuel efficient vehicles, global warming and renewable energy. In addition to being a co-convener of TheCLEAN.org (http://www.TheClean.org), the Civil Society Institute also is the parent organization of the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.HybridOwnersofAmerica.org).

EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available on the Web at http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org as of 5 p.m. EST on January 10, 2013. 

SOURCE Civil Society Institute, Newton, MA and Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC

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