Clean energy has become an even more divided topic in the US


While the majority of Americans would like to see more clean energy from solar and wind farms — support for new renewable energy projects has started to wane, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. It also found a drop in interest in electric vehicles following Biden administration policies to slash greenhouse gas emissions and Republican backlash.

The share of people who favor more solar power has dropped from 90 to 78 percent since 2020, the survey found. Support for wind power among survey participants similarly dropped more than 10 percentage points to 72 percent over the past four years. And just 29 percent of adults said they’d consider an EV as their next car purchase, compared to 38 percent last year.

Image: Pew Research Center

A widening partisan divide on clean energy technologies seems to be driving those changes. The biggest drop in support has been among Republicans in recent years, even though there are differences between how older and younger generations of the GOP view climate change and renewable energy.

The Pew Research Center surveyed 8,638 adults in the US in May of this year. It tries to include participants representative of the US population when it comes to race, ethnicity, gender, education, political affiliation, and more.

The biggest drop in support has been among Republicans in recent years

Back in 2020, 84 percent of Republican survey participants said they’d like to see more solar farms, and 75 percent said they’d favor more wind farms in the US. That support has fallen to 64 and 56 percent, respectively, for solar and wind farms this year. More than 80 percent of Republicans surveyed, compared to 35 percent of Democrats, oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s new standards for greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes expected to make more than half of car sales EVs by 2032.

Those shifts in opinion coincide with the Biden administration’s push to incentivize new renewable energy projects since he was elected in 2020. President Biden signed the nation’s biggest investment in climate action and clean energy into law in 2022, the $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have tried to slow EV adoption by attempting to roll back tax credits for EVs and block the tailpipe pollution rule.

Image: Pew Research Center

While many Republican lawmakers have lambasted the IRA investments in EVs and renewables, a lot of the funding it created for clean tech manufacturing is actually flowing into their districts. Of $206 billion in investments so far, $161 billion is slated for projects in Republican districts, according to a recent Bloomberg analysis. Most of that money supports EV and battery manufacturing. A separate analysis by CNN similarly found that nearly 78 percent of IRA investments go to congressional Republican districts.

We’ll have to wait and see if that infusion of cash happens to shift Republicans’ views on renewables. But the tides could also turn again with younger Republicans, who are far more optimistic about solar and wind energy than their older counterparts. Only 22 percent of Republicans aged 65 or older in the survey said that expanding renewable energy production should be a priority. In contrast, 67 percent of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 29 said renewable energy ought to be the priority over coal, oil, and gas production. In general, young adults are more likely to think climate change will cause more harm in the US in their lifetime, according to another Pew survey published in October.



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