When it comes to their energy mix, Colorado residents strongly favor energy efficiency and renewable resources such wind and solar, as well as the first-ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, according to a poll released this week.
The survey of 501 demographically diverse Coloradoans found that more than half prefer investments in energy efficiency and renewable, clean sources like wind and solar energy rather than traditional (and polluting) resources like coal, oil, and gas.
The survey also showed that a super-majority, or 66 percent, support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan that will set the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, the largest source of the pollution driving climate change and extreme weather.
The poll, conducted last month in Colorado and four other states on behalf of NRDC by a bi-partisan team of polling firms (Hart Research Associates and American Viewpoint) sends a clear message that Coloradoans don't support the Big Polluter agenda being pushed in Congress and will hopefully serve as an important signal to the state's politically divided state legislature and congressional delegation, as well.
Among the respondents, 74 percent cited the nation's dependence on oil as a very or somewhat serious problem, 79 percent considered air pollution a very or somewhat serious problem, and 65 percent were seriously concerned about climate change.
And the results show that environmental concerns are shared across the political spectrum. Among the Colorado survey participants, 40 percent considered their approach to issues to be largely conservative while just 25 percent claimed a more liberal approach with the rest either middle of the road or not sure.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy viewing Colorado's snowpack this week
Coloradans Know Climate Change is Real
The vast majority of Colorado residents don't need to be convinced that climate change is here. Nature has already persuaded them. In fact, 91 percent of those polled believe climate change is real, and more than half (53 percent) recognize human activity is the cause. Only 5 percent said climate change doesn't exist.
Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared 2014 the hottest year on earth since record-keeping began in the 1800s - and unfortunately, Colorado has been no stranger to these heat records. Coloradoans have already witnessed changes consistent with what scientists expect from ongoing climate change: flooding, drought and shorter, warmer winters, as was highlighted at the Xgames by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy this week.
The EPA's Clean Power Plan would require utilities to reduce emissions from their dirtiest power plants, limit carbon output from new power plants, and make greater use of clean energy technologies. For Colorado, EPA has proposed a 35 percent reduction the rate of carbon emissions from the 2012 level by 2030. The EPA is expected to issue final rules by mid-summer this year, with the compliance period due to begin by summer 2020.
Colorado Wants Clean Energy
The new poll underscores that Colorado residents support clean energy. In fact, the survey showed:
- 62 percent said it was "extremely important" to expand programs that encourage smarter energy use - such as insulation and more efficient appliances for homes and businesses -- while 59 percent rated investing in renewable energy in that category.
- 56 percent of Coloradoans believe government should do more to promote energy efficiency and renewable resources.
It should come as no surprise that Colorado boasts such significant support for a cleaner energy future.
The state is successfully and cost-effectively deploying one of the highest renewable energy standards in the country, requiring investor-owned utilities to use 30 percent renewables to generate power by 2020 (rural coops, which serve far fewer customers will meet 20 percent). The largest utilityin Colorado, Xcel, is ahead of schedule, buying wind and solar because it is cheaper than burning dirtier resources to keep the lights on and people warm in Colorado.
At the same time, Colorado's utility investments in energy-saving programs are already reducing electricity use by nearly 1 percent a year. At a modest growth rate of only a quarter-percent annually, Colorado could double that total by 2020, meaning the state will already easily exceed EPA's proposed emissions reduction targets.
This latest poll is one more affirmation that Colorado should continue its impressive program of renewables investment and energy efficiency as a better way of working toward meeting - and exceeding - the proposed federal carbon pollution emissions standards. Coloradoans want a clean energy for themselves and future generations.