Everyone loves renewables, but nobody trusts Trump’s EPA
California’s recent passage of a 100% clean energy bill, coupled with Jerry Brown’s 100% carbon-free executive order, certainly make California a climate leader. But in terms of public opinion, it’s hardly a radical position. Even polling commissioned by the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group, shows overwhelming public support for clean energy. EEI is a group that’s been working on its renewables-related messaging for years now–it hired a crisis communications manager back in 2016, and shortly after issued messaging guidance we used as the perfect example of how propaganda emulates ideals to undermine them.
Two years later, and EEI is still at it. Polling and message testing presented at the group’s recent board meeting was shared with Dave Roberts at Vox, and provides some surprising insight into renewable energy’s incredible popularity. According to the testing, 74% of Americans support using solar “as much as possible,” while 70% support a 100% renewable grid “in the near future.” And when presented with the utility industry’s weak excuses that renewables aren’t up to the job or require too much land, respondents were unswayed. One participant said simply that they “don’t want to hear him complain about how much work it will take” but rather “how the work would get done.”
Part of getting it done means paying for it, and cost is definitely the issue deniers usedto attack California’s recent renewable policies. But according to the polling, that’s probably not going to be effective: 51% of participants said they think 100% renewables is a good idea even if it means a 30% increase in energy bills!
The energy issue isn’t the only place deniers are running into public opposition. Over at the EPA, the unpopularity of Trump’s deregulatory agenda is starting to make folks rethink some things.
No, they’re not rethinking the desirability of policies that kill Americans, but instead how to convince Americans that those policies are fine.
According to InsideEPA’s Dave Reynolds, Andrew Wheeler and Trump’s EPA will attempt to distract Americans from deadly regulatory rollbacks by focusing on “risk communication” and highlighting the EPA’s success in the past few decades (you know, before the Trump crew came into power).
Per Reynolds, this desperate bid to reframe a polluters-first agenda comes at least in part as a result of Gallup polling from March that shows 62% of people think the government isn’t doing enough to protect the environment, and that for the first time since the year 2000, over half of us are upset about the state of the environment.
Similar to EEI’s message testing, Gallup found three-quarters of Americans support stronger pollution controls and more government spending on solar and wind, while a majority say environmental protection should be a priority, even if it means risking economic growth. The jobs vs environment dichotomy may be false, but most people don’t care anyway–more money is useless if you can’t breathe. This certainly complicates the right wing message of justifying regulatory rollbacks with economic concerns.
In light of these stats, top agency officials at last month’s Environmental Council of the States suggested shifting their messaging to improvements made over the last 25 years. Instead of bragging about what great new steps the federal agency, and its state-based incarnations, will be taking, they’re instead going to turn to the past to remind people how far we’ve come in cleaning up pollution.
Apparently, since the Cuyahoga River is no longer regularly catching fire, people should be fine with the EPA backtracking on regulations, demonizing the exact sort of regulatory agenda that helped stop the river from catching fire.
Urging people to remember how bad things used to be before there were EPA regulations is only going to be a winning message if it’s not followed by “well, now we’re rolling back regulations like that!”
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(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)