Energy & Environment

The United States has had a longstanding tension between its needs for protection of the environment and for reasonably-priced energy. The challenge of finding the right balance between these priorities has been a perennial of policymaking for some time now.

A longstanding concern has been the health effects from air pollution caused by the emissions from use of fossil fuels. These are particularly significant for certain vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and those with asthma.

More recently the concern has extended to the effect of the use of fossil fuels on the global climate. There is now a clear consensus in the scientific community that energy production from fossil fuels creates greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, with destabilizing effects on the global climate.

To address both of these effects there have been numerous proposals to promote clean energy–i.e. alternatives to fossil fuels, such as wind and solar, that do not produce negative health effects or destabilize the climate–and to promote greater energy efficiency so as to reduce the demand for energy produced by fossil fuels. These proposals primarily focus on tax incentives and regulations. All of these proposals are controversial as tax incentives reduce public revenues and regulations can increase the cost of cars, trucks and buildings.

In addition there have been numerous proposals for the US to make commitments to gradually reduce the level of greenhouse gases. The US has participated in a series of international conferences that have led to international agreements to seek such reductions, most recently the “Paris agreement.” Domestically, under the Obama administration Congress passed the Clean Power Plan that created a framework for states to commit to plans for reductions, reductions that would fulfill the commitments the US made under the Paris agreement. Both the Paris agreement and the Clean Power Plan have been highly controversial and have been largely reversed under the Trump administration out of concern for the costs entailed. However, 25 states have persisted in seeking to live up to the obligations of the Paris Agreement and their commitments under the Clean Power Plan. The Biden administration rejoined the Paris Agreement, but has not reinstated the Clean Power Plan, instead directing the EPA to craft a new plan for regulating greenhouse gases.

Another area of controversy has been the extraction of fossil fuels offshore and in environmentally sensitive areas. Offshore drilling has resulted in environmentally damaging numerous oil spills and fossil fuel extraction in certain sensitive areas has posed threats to wildlife. These concerns align with the broader goals of reducing the use of fossil fuels due to its impact on health and the climate. But, once again, imposing constraints on the extraction of fossil fuels has the potential to reduce supply and increase the cost of energy.

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below:

  • Updating existing tax incentives for:
    • clean energy production
    • making energy-efficient upgrades to homes and commercial buildings
    • building new energy-efficient homes and commercial buildings
  • Creating new tax incentives for:
    • investing in first-of-its-kind clean energy technology
    • producing electric buses
    • installing electric vehicle charging stations

Proposals that did not receive bipartisan support:

  • Creating new tax incentives for:
    • installing and producing energy from first-of-its-kind clean energy technology
    • purchasing electric vehicles

  • National Sample: 3,826
  • Margin of Error: +/- 1.6%
  • Fielded: April 16 - June 10, 2016

There were also an oversample of 2,149 respondents in Oklahoma, Texas, California, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and New York. These data can be found in the questionnaire.

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below:

  • Providing tax credits for various clean energy and energy efficiency products and investments
  • Requiring higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks
  • Requiring electric companies to have a minimum portion of their electricity come from renewable energy
  • Adopting stricter regulations on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
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TAX INCENTIVES

PRODUCING CLEAN ENERGY

Respondents were first given a general introduction to the negative impacts of the way energy is currently produced. This included information about the health effects of air pollution, and the likely effects on climate change caused by greenhouse gases. They also evaluated arguments for and against the government making it a high priority to reduce these negative impacts of energy production.

Finally, they rated how high a priority it should be for the government to reduce these negative impacts. Reducing air pollution that causes negative health effects was given a high priority by over three in four (78%, very high 47%).  This included 54% of Republicans, 98% of Democrats, and eight in ten independents.  Reducing greenhouse gases was given a high priority by three in four (74%, very high 50%).  Nearly all Democrats (98%), eight in ten independents (79%), but only 45% of Republicans made it a high priority. 

Respondents were told that Members of Congress have proposed tax credits to incentivize the transition to cleaner forms of energy and more energy efficient infrastructure. Currently, these are bills to renew these tax credits, or to merge them and create new technology-neutral tax credits.

The proposals evaluated to reinstate and update existing tax incentives, were based on the Clean Energy for America Act by Sen. Ron Wyden (D) (S. 1288).  Proposals for new tax credits were for:

  • “first-of-its-kind” clean energy technology, based on H.R. 5523 by Rep. Tom Reed (R),
  • electric vehicles, based on H.R. 5163 by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D); H.R. 2256 by Rep. Dan Kildee (D); and H.R. 5161 by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D), 
  • and electric vehicle charging stations, based on H.R. 5545 by Rep. Bobby Rush (D), and the Electric CARS Act by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) (S. 993) and Rep. Peter Welch (D) (H.R. 2042)

Respondents were first introduced to the idea of using tax credits as a way to incentivize a switch to clean energy and energy-saving technologies as follows:

Another way that the government can encourage people and companies to adopt clean energy or energy-saving technologies is to provide them tax incentives.

As you may know, a tax credit reduces the total amount of taxes a person or company owes. For example, if a person owes $5,000 in taxes and gets a $1,000 tax credit, then they will only owe $4,000.

Currently, there are a number of such tax credits in place to encourage people and companies to adopt clean energy or energy-saving technologies. Most will expire within the next couple of years but could be renewed. Thus, there is a debate about whether the government should provide such tax credits.

Respondents evaluated general arguments for and against using tax credits as incentives. The pro argument was found convincing by a bipartisan majority. The con argument did less well, with just under half finding it convincing. There were substantial partisan differences, with a majority of Republicans finding it convincing, but just three in ten Democrats.

Asked how acceptable they find, “the idea of providing tax credits to encourage people and companies to adopt clean energy or energy-saving technologies,” using a 0-10 scale, 69% found it acceptable (6-10), including 88% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans. Including the middle option of “just tolerable”,  83% found the idea at least tolerable (5-10), including over two thirds of Republicans (68%). Majorities in very red (59%) to very blue (77%) found the idea acceptable (6-10).

In the 2016 PPC survey, respondents evaluated arguments for and against using tax incentives and then evaluated two general options which received bipartisan support:

  • Paying to install fuel-efficient lighting, doors, windows and insulation for homes and businesses” was favored by 75%, including 66% of Republicans as well 84% of Democrats. 
  • Building new energy-efficient homes” was favored by 78%, including 69% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats.

The 2019 CDD survey found similar majorities in favor of using “taxes or other market incentives to achieve emissions reductions”. Before providing their final response, they were presented with briefing materials on the environment and climate change and arguments for and against the proposal, and participated in an in-person deliberation. On a 0-10 scale, 72% were in favor of the proposal (6-10), including 89% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans.

Before receiving any briefing materials or engaging in the deliberation process respondents were given the same poll question as those asked afterwards. Support increased from the pre-deliberation poll to the post-deliberation poll, overall (61% to 72%), and among Republicans (34% to 52%) and Democrats (80% to 89%). 

Turning back to the 2020 PPC survey after evaluating pro and con arguments and weighing in on the general principle of using tax incentives, respondents then evaluated specific tax credit proposals to further:

  • production of  clean energy 
  • energy efficient buildings 
  • “first-of-its-kind” clean energy technology, 
  • electric vehicles and charging stations

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample in a 2018 PPC survey were told the responses to questions about tax incentives, bipartisan majorities agreed with the majority position to provide tax credits for:

  • upgrading energy efficiency of homes and businesses (89%, Republicans 83%, Democrats 95%);
  • building new energy efficient homes (88%, Republicans 82%, Democrats 94%);
  • installing wind and fuel cell micro-turbines (83%, Republicans 73%, Democrats 92%); and
  • building biogas facilities on farms to reduce methane (83%, Republicans 72%, Democrats 92%). 

Related Standard Polls
Large majorities, bipartisan in nearly every case, have favored the government at least providing tax credits for energy efficient products and buildings, clean energy production, or electric vehicles:

  • Asked whether they support providing “tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels,” 82% were in support (Republicans 71%, Democrats 93%). (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked the same question months earlier, 83% were in support, including 75% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats. (April 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked whether they support a policy to, “Provide tax incentives or rebates to homeowners, landlords, and businesses to make existing buildings more energy efficient,” 87% were in support (Republicans 79%, Democrats 95%). (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked whether they support a policy to, “Provide tax incentives or rebates to homeowners, landlords, and businesses to purchase appliances that can be powered without burning fossil fuels (such as electric water heaters, electric heat pumps, and electric induction cooktops),” 79% were in support (Republicans 67%, Democrats 91%). (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked whether they favor the following proposals, “as a way for the federal government to try to reduce future global warming. Each of these changes would increase the amount of money that you pay for things you buy”:
    • “Giving companies tax breaks to produce more electricity from water, wind, and solar power,” (82%, Republicans 73%, Democrats 91%) (2020, Stanford University PPRG)
  • For each proposal, respondents were asked, “whether it’s something the government should require by law to try to reduce future global warming, should encourage with tax breaks but not require, or stay out of entirely. Each of these changes could increase the amount of money that you pay for things you buy”. Respondents stated the government should either mandate, or encourage through tax breaks:
    • “Building new homes and offices that use less energy for heating and cooling” (75%, Republicans 61%, Democrats 86%)
    • “Building air conditioners, refrigerators, and other appliances that use less electricity” (71%, Republicans 52%, Democrats 86%)
    • “Building cars that run completely on electricity” (60%, Republicans 47%, Democrats 70%) (2020, Stanford University PPRG)

Status of Legislation
Several pieces of legislation were put forward in the 116th Congress to either extend or create new tax credits to incentivize reducing emissions. The following bills would reinstate and update existing energy tax credits:

  • Clean Energy for America Act by Sen. Ron Wyden (D) (S. 1288) would update existing tax credits for clean energy and energy-saving technologies as technology-neutral tax credits
  • Solar and Geothermal Tax Credit Expansion Act , sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D) (H.R. 3961) and Sen. Cortez Masto (D) (S. 3229)

The proposal to create a 30% tax credit for producing energy by capturing methane and converting it to biogas was in the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act in the 116th Congress, sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D) (H.R. 3744) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) (S. 2542)

The proposal to create tax credits for first-of-its-kind clean energy technology was in the Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act (H.R. 5523), sponsored by Rep. Tom Reed (R).

And there were several bills that would create tax incentives to encourage the production and purchase of electric vehicles:

  • H.R. 5163 by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D) would create a tax credit for the sale of fully electric buses
  • H.R. 2256 by Rep. Dan Kildee (D) would create a tax credit for the purchase of a new electric vehicle
  • H.R. 5161 by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D) would create a tax credit for low-income people for the purchase of a used electric vehicle
  • H.R. 5545 by Rep. Bobby Rush (D), and the Electric CARS Act by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) (S. 993) and Rep. Peter Welch (D) (H.R. 2042), which would create tax incentives for the installation of publicly available electric charging stations

In the 117th Congress, several bills related to clean energy tax credits have been put forward:

  • The Clean Energy for America Act by Sen. Ron Wyden (D) (S. 1298) was reintroduced.
  • GREEN Act by Rep. Mike Thompson (D) (H.R. 848), which would renew and modify tax credits for clean energy production and storage, energy-efficiency improvements to residential and commercial buildings, and the purchase of used electric cars by low income households.
  • Green Bus Tax Credit Act by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D) (H.R. 583), which would provide a tax credit equal to 10% of the sales price of a fully electric bus.
  • S. 494 by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), which would provide a tax credit for zero-emission buses.

None of these bills have made it out of committee.

Respondents evaluated three tax incentives, one of which received bipartisan majority support: “A tax credit up to 30% for an investment in the development of first-of-its-kind clean energy technology to produce, store or distribute energy,” was favored by 71%, including 57% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats. The other two received majority support, but less than half of Republicans were in favor: “A tax credit up to 40% of the cost of installing first-of-its-kind clean energy technology,” was favored by 65%, including 79% of Democrats, but just under half of Republicans (47%, opposed 52%). “A tax credit up to 60% of the sales price of clean energy produced using first-of-its-kind technology,” was favored by 55%, including 67% of Democrats, but just four in ten Republicans (opposed 59%).

  • the amount of electricity produced with clean energy: equal to up to 5-10% of the average retail cost of electricity

  • the production of transportation fuel that produces 25% fewer emissions than the current average: up to $1 per gallon

  • an investment in the development of first-of-its-kind clean energy technology to produce, store or distribute energy: up to 30%

  • for installing small residential wind and fuel cell micro-turbines to generate energy for homes

ENERGY EFFICIENT BUILDINGS

  • building a new energy-efficient home or residential building: up to $3,000

  • making energy-saving improvements such as fuel-efficient lighting, doors, windows, or insulation: up to $6,500

  • installing a new energy-efficient heating or air conditioning system: up to $1500

  • building new energy-efficient commercial buildings: up to $4.75 per square foot

  • making energy-saving improvements to commercial buildings that reduce energy: up to $9.25 per square foot

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

  • manufacturers of fully electric buses: a tax credit equal to 10% of the sales price of each bus sold

  • the cost of installing a charging station that can be used by anyone: up to 50%

BIOGAS FACILITIES

  • building biogas facilities on farms, capturing methane and converting it into energy: 30% of startup costs

REGULATIONS

In 2012, the Obama Administration implemented regulations to continually increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles, known as CAFE standards. In 2018, the Trump administration put a freeze on these standards.

Respondents considered the use of government regulations to reduce carbon dioxide and other pollutants. First they evaluated arguments for and against regulatory standards in general. The argument in favor was found convincing 72%, including 57% of Republicans and nine in ten Democrats. 

The argument against regulatory standards was found convincing by a modest 53%, with partisan differences: seven in ten Republicans found it convincing, but only a third of Democrats did. 

Respondents then weighed in on two specific sets of regulatory standards for fuel efficiency. 

Fuel Efficiency Standards for Cars and Light Trucks
The first set concerned the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks: these requirements are scheduled to go up over 2017 through 2025.  Respondents were told that carbon dioxide emissions would be cut to half of their 2010 levels by 2025. This would add $1,800 to the cost of the vehicle, but the owner would save an estimated $5,700 on gasoline over the car’s lifetime.  Respondents read brief arguments, including the objection that it would increase prices on the very vehicles—light trucks and SUVs—that many Americans prefer.

Three in four (73%) favored imposing these higher standards, with 26% opposed.  Among Republicans, almost three in five (57%) favored it; among Democrats it approached nine in ten.

Fuel Efficiency Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles
The second set of regulatory standards concerned heavy-duty trucks, vans, tractors and similar vehicles, starting in 2018 and increasing through 2027.  By 2027, respondents learned, a new vehicle in this class would cost an extra $1,855 but would save the owner about $400-500 annually in lower fuel costs.  

Respondents read brief arguments, including the objection that since these vehicles are the workhorses of our economy, new regulations will drive up the costs of interstate commerce, hurting businesses, increasing consumers’ costs. 

Seven in ten (71%) favored the higher standards, with 28% opposed.  Among Republicans 56% were in favor; among Democrats, this was 84%. 

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 76% said they agreed with the majority position to require higher fuel efficiency standards for light cars and trucks, including 60% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats. Eighty percent agreed with the majority position to require higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles, including 65% of Republicans and 93% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Results from the Center for Deliberative Democracy (CDD)
A deliberative survey done in 2019 by Stanford University’s Center for Deliberative Democracy asked about a proposal that would go even further: “mandat[ing] zero carbon emissions for cars, trucks and buses.” Before providing their final response, they were presented with briefing materials on the environment and climate change, and arguments for and against the proposal. This proposal found significantly less support, especially among Republicans. On a 0-10 scale, with 5 being “in the middle”, just 39% were in favor of this policy (6-10), including just 19% of Republicans, but a majority of Democrats (56%). Including the middle option (5-10), those who were not opposed was 56% overall, including 75% of Democrats, but just 34% of Republicans.

Before receiving any briefing materials or engaging in the deliberation process respondents were given the same poll question as those asked afterwards. Support decreased from the pre-deliberation poll to the post-deliberation poll, overall (42% to 39%) and among Democrats (64% to 56%). Including the middle option, those who were not opposed decreased, overall (66% to 56%), and among Republicans (40% to 34%) and Democrats ( 85% to 75%).

Related Standard Polls
A bipartisan majority opposed lowering the fuel efficiency standards:

  • Asked whether they favor a policy to “Lower the required fuel efficiency for the average automobile from 35 mpg to 25 mpg,” 67% opposed, including 52% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats. (2018, Harvard CCES)

Large bipartisan majorities have favored increasing fuel efficiency standards:

Asked whether they support a policy to, “Set stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks, and SUVs,” 78% were in support (Republicans 62%, Democrats 91%) (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)

  • Asked whether they favor “the government… requiring better fuel efficiency for cars, trucks and SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicle),” 82% were in favor, including 77% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. (December 2014, Pew)

Status of Proposals
There are three pieces of legislation in the 116th Congress that would prevent the EPA from reducing fuel efficiency standards by renewing the 2012 CAFE rules, which were repealed in 2018. 

The Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act (S. 2505), sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D), and the Clean and Efficient Cars Act (H.R. 978), sponsored by Rep. Doris Matsui (D) would renew the CAFE rules, and thus increase fuel efficiency standards,

The GAS MONEY Saved Act (S. 2643), sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D) would renew the CAFE rules for light-duty vehicles (i.e. passenger cars), and thus increase the fuel efficiency standards applied to them.

  • Light cars and heavy trucks

  • Heavy-duty vehicles

There has been a proposal in Congress requiring electricity providers nationwide to increase their supply of renewable energy, as a percentage of their total retail sale of electricity.

Following the evaluation of arguments for and against the use of government regulations to reduce carbon dioxide and other pollutants (discussed above), respondents were informed about the policies of 29 state governments, requiring electric utilities to have a minimum portion of their electricity come from renewable sources.  They were told that these state policies are estimated to currently lower greenhouse gases from power production for the entire US by 3.6% from what it would otherwise be.  They also learned that the costs have been mostly passed on to consumers, increasing their price of electricity by 1 to 2%.

Asked whether they favored such a policy in their own state, three in four supported it (74%, 36% strongly) with a quarter opposed.  Among Republicans, 56% supported it; among Democrats, this was nine in ten. 

Respondents in the 29 states that currently require utilities to include renewables were compared with those living in the states that do not require it.  In both groups of states, over seven in ten favored the requirement; the differences were not statistically significant.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 80% said they agreed with the majority position to require electric companies to have a minimum portion of their electricity come from renewable sources, including 66% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Partisan majorities have supported setting minimum renewable energy standards for each state:

  • Asked whether they support a policy to, “Require electric utilities to produce 100% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources by the year 2035,” 66% were in support, including 94% of Democrats, but less than half of Republicans (38%, opposed 60%). (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked whether they supported a policy to, “Require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year,” 65% were in support, including 86% of Democrats, but less than half of Republicans (46%, opposed 53%). (April 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked whether they support a proposal to “Require that each state use a minimum amount of renewable fuels (wind, solar, and hydroelectric) in the generation of electricity even if electricity prices increase,” 55% were in support, including 84% of Democrats and 29% of Republicans (71% opposed) (2018, Harvard CCES)

A bipartisan majority, after being given pros and cons, favored a similar proposal to set emission limits on power plants:

  • They were introduced to the following policy along with its effects: “Set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health. Power plants would have to reduce their emissions and/or invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase.” Asked whether they supported this policy, 70% were in support, including 52% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats. (November 2016, Yale University/George Mason University)

A partisan majority favored keeping the Clean Power Plan rules to reduce power plant emissions:

  • Respondents were told that, “President Trump has issued many orders over the first two years of his presidency,” and asked whether they favored the order to “repeal the Clean Power Plant Rules, which calls for power plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030.” Fifty six percent opposed the order to repeal it, including 87% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 29% opposed and 71% favored. (2018, Harvard CCES)

Status of Proposal
The Renewable Electricity Standard Act (S. 1974), sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D) in the 116th Congress, would require electricity providers nationwide to increase their supply of renewable energy, as a percentage of their total retail sale of electricity. It has not made it out of committee.

Regulations were introduced in the Clean Air Act in 1970 to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which have significant greenhouse gas effects. In 2016, regulations were introduced by the Obama administration to expand those regulations. 

Following the evaluation of arguments for and against the use of government regulations to reduce carbon dioxide and other pollutants (discussed above), respondents were introduced to the issue of hydrofluorocarbons, used in air conditioning systems, refrigerators and freezers, and were told that HFCs are at least 400 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

They learned of a pending regulation that would require businesses to gradually replace HFCs with more energy-efficient alternatives and meet new standards in the disposal of HFCs.  They were told the overall cost to all affected businesses would be $63 million a year, though most of the cost would be offset by energy savings. 

A bipartisan majority supported for this new regulation (77%), including two thirds of Republicans and nine in ten Democrats. 

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 76% said they agreed with the majority position to adopt stricter regulations on HFCs, including 64% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

COMMITMENTS TO REDUCE GREENHOUSE GASES

Center for Deliberative Democracy (CDD) Survey

  • National Sample: 523
  • Margin of Error: +/- 4.8%
  • Pre-event fielded: July 9 - August 5, 2019
  • Post-event fielded: September 22, 2019

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below:

  • Committing to the 2014 Paris Agreement
  • Going beyond the 2014 Paris Agreement

Program for Public Consultation (PPC) Survey

  • National Sample: 3,826
  • Margin of Error: +/- 1.6%
  • Fielded: April 16 - June 10, 2016

There were also an oversample of 2,149 respondents in Oklahoma, Texas, California, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and New York. These data can be found in the questionnaire.

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below:

  • Adopting the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2% a year, as part of the Paris Climate Agreement
  • Providing adjustment assistance to coal workers who lose their job as a result of the transition to cleaner forms of energy 
  • Adopting the Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 2-3% a year

In 2016, the US government signed the Paris Agreement, a framework for tackling climate change across the globe that was signed by nearly all of the world’s nations (but not Russia, Turkey, or Iran). In 2017, the US government announced it would withdraw from the treaty.

Some Americans believe the US should re-commit to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, which they say is a rapidly escalating global threat requiring urgent global action.4 After all, greenhouse gases emitted anywhere affect the people everywhere.5 From this perspective, climate change is one of the most serious long-term threats to the health and wellbeing of Americans, and even American military readiness is being affected.6 Additionally, some advocates believe the US needs to participate in the Paris Agreement in order not to give up its claim of global leadership on climate change to China and other nations.

Opponents of the Paris Agreement believe the US government was right to withdraw because it included only voluntary commitments and imposed no consequences on countries that failed to follow through. Critics also object that the American commitment was much larger than those of other countries, and that it would prove costly to US households and harmful to American competitiveness in the energy market. As a result, spending US taxpayer dollars on this problem would benefit other countries more than the US.8 Advocates respond that US leadership is critical to mobilizing global action, and that some other nations have actually made commitments far more serious than ours.

Some believe the US should go beyond the Paris Agreement to more ambitiously reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They say that the Paris Agreement only seeks to hold the rise in average world temperatures to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and that it does not go far enough. Many scientists predict more severe droughts, wildfires, flooding, food shortages and refugee flows unless we can keep global temperatures from rising beyond an additional 2.7 degrees.

Advocates for strong action argue we have been warned by scientists about the dangers of global warming for over three decades — and have done relatively little as a nation. Because adverse climate changes are so profound and so difficult to reverse, but take place so slowly over time, it is important to take action as soon as possible — both to minimize the damage as much as possible, and to minimize the costs of preventive action, which will rise dramatically with time. For the sake of the next generation we need to start acting now.

Critics believe that moving beyond the current Paris Agreement goal is unrealistic. Industrialized countries and other big polluters like China and India would be unlikely to agree to the immediate and costly actions that a larger goal would require. Greater real-world progress will come, they suggest, by aiming for a more attainable objective.

They were then presented two proposals and arguments for and against each. Afterwards, they deliberated on the proposals in-person, and were asked to give their final recommendation.

The first proposal went as follows:

Proposal: The US should commit to the 2014 Paris Agreement to combat climate change. 

Argument in Favor: Climate change is an urgent global threat requiring global solutions. It demands international cooperation, since greenhouse gases emitted anywhere affect people everywhere. The US should not cede its claim of global leadership in this arena to China and others.

Argument Against: The Paris Agreement is harmful to American energy competitiveness and is expensive and ineffective. Overall, the agreement requires a vast expenditure of taxpayer dollars in ways that benefits other countries more than the US.

On a 0-10 scale, 70% favored the proposal (6-10), including 91% of Democrats, but less than half of Republicans (44%). Including the middle option (5-10), the share not in opposition to the proposal was 80% nationally, 97% of Democrats and a majority of Republicans (60%).

Pre-Deliberation Poll
Before receiving any briefing materials or engaging in the deliberation process respondents were given the same poll question as those asked afterwards. Support increased from the pre-deliberation poll to the post-deliberation poll, overall (64% to 70%), and among Republicans (28% to 44%) and Democrats (89% to 91%). The share not in opposition to the proposal (5-10) increased overall (76% to 80%) and among Republicans (44% to 60%), with Democrats unchanged.

Going Beyond the Paris Agreement 
Respondents were also presented a proposal for going beyond the Paris Agreement as follows: 

Proposal: The US should go beyond the Paris Agreement and aim for even greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Argument in Favor: The Paris Agreement tries to assure that global temperatures do not rise more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But many scientists predict grave consequences of extreme weather and flooding if temperatures rise beyond 2.7 degrees. The agreement must be revised.

Argument Against: Moving beyond the Paris goal is unrealistic. Countries responsible for the bulk of greenhouse emissions would not consent to the immediate and costly actions that would be required of their citizens. It is better to aim for a more attainable objective.

This proposal was favored (6-10) by 68%, including 85% of Democrats, but less than half of Republicans (44%). The share not in opposition to the proposal (5-10) was 81% nationally, including 97% of Democrats and a majority of Republicans (60%).

Pre-Deliberation Poll
Before receiving any briefing materials or engaging in the deliberation process respondents were given the same poll question as those asked afterwards. Support increased from the pre-deliberation poll to the post-deliberation poll, overall (63% to 68%) and among Republicans (33% to 44%), with Democrats unchanged (84% to 85%). The share not in opposition to the proposal (5-10) increased overall (77% to 81%) and among Republicans (56% to 60%), with Democrats unchanged.

Related Standard Polls on Paris Agreement
Majority support for the US participating in the Paris Climate Agreement had been declining from 2016 to 2018, driven primarily by declining Republican support, but has recently rebounded to its highest rate yet, with a majority of Republicans in favor of participating:

  • In 2016, asked whether the US should participate in the, “Paris Agreement that calls for countries to collectively reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases,” 71% said the US should participate, including 86% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans. (June 2016, Chicago Council on Global Affairs)
  • In 2016, told that “One year ago, the United States signed an international agreement in Paris with 196 other countries to limit the pollution that causes global warming,” and asked whether, “the US should participate in this agreement, or not participate,” 69% chose to participate, including 86% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans. (November 2016, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • In 2017, respondents were told, “the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is an agreement that calls for countries to collectively reduce their overall emissions that are harmful to the environment. The United States and 192 other countries signed this agreement in 2015, but President (Donald) Trump has proposed withdrawing the US from this agreement due to his concerns that government regulations growing from this agreement will lead to the loss of US jobs.” Then, asked whether, “President Trump should withdraw the US from this agreement, or allow the US to continue as a participating country,” 62% chose to “allow the US continue to participate”, including 89% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 39% chose to participate, and 56% chose to withdraw. (March 2017, Politico/Harvard School of Public Health)
  • In 2018, asked whether the US should participate in the, “Paris Agreement that calls for countries to collectively reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases,” 68% said the US should participate, including 85% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 45% chose should participate and 52% chose should not. (2018, Chicago Council on Global Affairs)
  • In 2020, told that “In 2015, the United States signed an international agreement in Paris with 196 other countries to limit the pollution that causes global warming,” and asked whether, “the US should participate in this agreement, or not participate,” 77% chose to participate, including 94% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans. (April 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • In 2020, told that, “In 2015, the United States signed an international agreement in Paris with 196 other countries to limit the pollution that causes global warming,” asked whether they support the US’ participation, 75% were in support (Democrats 95%, Republicans 54%) (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)

Majorities and pluralities have opposed President Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, with large partisan divisions:

  • Respondents were first told that, “The U.S. is the world’s second largest emitter of the pollution that causes global warming. President Trump recently announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, but all other countries responded that they remain committed to the agreement.” Then, asked whether they support or oppose, “President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement,” 63% were opposed, including 93% of Democrats but just 31% of Republicans (69% supported). (April 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked whether they support President Trump’s decision to “Withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement,” 56% opposed, including 95% of Democrats. Among Republicans 17% opposed and 83% supported. (2018, Harvard CCES)
  • Told that, “nearly 200 countries recently signed an international agreement in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” and asked whether they, “support, oppose, or neither support nor oppose the United States withdrawing from this international agreement,” 46% opposed and 29% supported. Among Democrats, 78% opposed. Among Republicans, 24% opposed and 51% supported. Twenty three percent chose “neither support nor oppose”. (August 2017, AP-NORC)
  • Asked whether they support, “President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement,” 53% opposed, including 80% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 18% opposed and 66% supported. (June 2017, NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist)
  • Asked whether they approve of, “President (Donald) Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate change agreement,” 53% disapproved, including 81% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 12% disapproved and 65% approved. (July 2017, Politico/Harvard Public Health)

  • Commit to the 2014 Paris Agreement to combat climate change (CDD)

  • Go beyond the Paris Agreement and aim for more significant cutbacks on greenhouse gas emissions (CDD)

Finally, rated how high a priority it should be for the government to reduce these negative impacts. Reducing air pollution that causes negative health effects was given a high priority by over three in four (78%, very high 47%).  This included 54% of Republicans, 98% of Democrats, and eight in ten independents.  Reducing greenhouse gases was given a high priority by three in four (74%, very high 50%).  Nearly all Democrats (98%), eight in ten independents (79%), but only 45% of Republicans made it a high priority. 

Respondents then moved on to evaluating specific proposals for reducing harmful emissions from energy production. 

Effect of Possible Mitigation on Support for CPP
Those who had opposed the CPP were then asked how they would feel about the plan if the government were to “provide assistance to coal industry workers who lose their jobs.”

Combining the respondents who initially favored the Clean Power Plan with those who favored providing assistance to coal workers who lose their jobs and would favor the Clean Power Plan if such assistance is provided brings support to 77% overall, 59% among Republicans and 93% among Democrats.

Related Standard Polls
When told that President Trump has repealed the Clean Power Plan and told what it was, a majority was opposed, though a majority of Republicans favored it:

  • Respondents were first told that “President Trump has issued many orders over the first two years of his presidency.” They were then asked whether they support or oppose the “the order in principle: Repeal the Clean Power Plant Rules, which calls for power plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030.” Fifty six percent opposed, including 87% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 29% opposed and 71% favored. (2018, Harvard CCES)

Given no information about the Clean Power Plan and the opportunity to took a neutral position overall a plurality was opposed to its repeal, Democrats were opposed and half of Republicans took a neutral position: 

  • Asked whether they favor, “repealing the Clean Power Plan,” 42% opposed, 20% favored, and 38% chose “neither favor nor oppose”. Among Democrats, 60% were opposed and 17% were in favor. Among Republicans, 21% were opposed, 31% were in favor and 49% chose” neither favor nor oppose”.(August 2017, AP-NORC)

Status of Clean Power Plan and Legislation

Clean Power Plan
The Clean Power Plan was replaced with the Affordable Clean Energy plan in 2019, which ended the regulations to get electric utility companies to use more renewable energy sources, and redirected focus to increasing the energy efficiency of coal-fired power plants.

Adjustment Assistance for Coal Workers
The proposal to support coal workers who lose their jobs as a result of clean energy regulations and to help them transition into new jobs was in H.R.5669 sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R) and S.2398 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) in the 114th Congress. Neither bill made it out of committee.

There are several pieces of legislation in the 116th Congress that would use revenue from a new carbon fee to support displaced fossil fuel workers and coal-dependent communities affected by the carbon fee, and help them transition to a clean energy economy: the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act (S. 1128) sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D), the Climate Action Rebate Act by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D) (H.R. 4051) and Sen. Chris Coons (D) (S. 2284), and the America Wins Act (H.R. 4142) by Rep. John Larson (D). These bills have not made it out of committee.

One proposal would require the US to adopt the Paris Agreement goal of reducing emissions by about two percent a year. Respondents were introduced to the international framework for addressing climate change as follows: 

Scientists that study atmospheric changes emphasize that climate change is a global problem.  The temperature changes that occur are for the planet as a whole and the greenhouse gases that each nation generates contribute to the global problem. As a result there have been numerous efforts, sponsored by the UN, to try to arrive at an international agreement for reducing greenhouse gases. A series of international conferences have been held.  

They were then introduced to a debate in these conferences that has posed a major obstacle to achieving an international agreement: whether the developing countries should be required to limit their greenhouse gases. Illustrated with charts, it was explained that developed countries, such as the US, argue that developing countries now produce large total amounts of emissions, while developing countries argue that they are still growing out of poverty and produce much lower levels of emissions per capita.  

It was then explained that at the December 2015 conference of 200 countries in Paris, for the first time all of the countries—including developing countries as well as developed countries—came to an agreement to seek to limit the increase in global temperatures to no more than 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Respondents also learned that:

All countries, including the US, presented their national plans for limiting their greenhouse gases in line with this goal. The countries have not made legally binding commitments to meet this goal, but the agreement does require them to:

  • Have an action plan
  • Periodically report on progress
  • Update this plan every five years

The agreement refers to the assessment of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that meeting the goal of limiting temperature increases to 3.4 degrees will require 2%-a-year reductions on average between now and 2050

While developed countries like the US have submitted plans for reducing greenhouse gases right away, developing countries, such as China and India, have submitted plans for a more gradual path of first slowing, and then, within several years, beginning to reduce their gases.

They then evaluated arguments for and against the US continuing to participate in the international agreement to reduce its greenhouse gases in pursuit of the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to no more than 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The argument in favor was found convincing by a bipartisan majority. The argument against did less well and elicited a substantially more partisan response, with a majority of Republicans finding it convincing, but just a third of Democrats. 

Respondents were asked how acceptable the proposal, for the US to agree to reduce its greenhouse gases, would be using a 0-10 scale, with 5 being ‘just tolerable’. Six in ten found the proposal acceptable (6-10), including 79% of Democrats but just 41% of Republicans. It was found at least tolerable (5-10) by 77%, including 93% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans. 

At the end of the survey—after respondents had evaluated a range of concrete options aimed at reducing US greenhouse gases—they were provided a summary of the arguments previously given for and against US participation in the Paris agreement. Finally, they were asked whether they approved or disapproved of the US setting the goal of reducing its greenhouse gases by about 2% each year, as part of the international agreement reached in Paris.  Seven in ten (71%) approved of the goal, including 52% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats. 

Assistance for Coal Workers
Respondents were then introduced to the conflict about the potential negative effects that the reforms to reduce greenhouse gases in the US could have on the coal industry and coal workers.  

Respondents were first asked to consider the problem from the workers’ standpoint.  They were told that, “it is likely that some older coal plants will be shut and unlikely that new ones will be built, because cleaner forms of energy are now less expensive.”

They were then told about a proposal in Congress, based on H.R. 5669 and S. 2398, to provide coal industry employees who lose their jobs federal support and training to make the transition to other employment.  They learned that, if enacted, this would cost $500 million in its first year.

They were told that proponents “say it is not fair for coal workers to take the brunt of the changes that come with changing energy sources, and thus they should get help,“ while opponents “say it is not the government’s job to take care of everyone affected by economic change and these programs are often not effective.” 

When asked if they favored the plan, seven in ten (69%) favored it, including six in ten Republicans and eight in ten Democrats. 

Support was not significantly different among those with a family member who has worked in the coal industry. 

Clean Power Plan
To reduce greenhouse gases and to meet the commitment the US made to reduce its greenhouse gases, the Obama Administration put forward the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Respondents were provided a briefing in which they learned that, while the CPP’s main focus is on reducing carbon dioxide, the steps to do this will also reduce pollutants such as sulfur dioxide.  They learned that the plan calls for each state in the US to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants by 2-3% a year.  Each state is to come up with a plan suited to its circumstances and energy mix.

They were told that these reductions can be achieved through:

  • Reducing the use of energy sources that emit carbon dioxide, especially coal
  • Increasing the use of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, that emit little or no carbon dioxide 
  • Using new technologies to make energy use more efficient 

Respondents were then given information about the likely economic impact and given opportunities to react. First they were told about the estimated costs of the CPP, learning that the price of electricity will increase initially by about 3%.  After 5-10 years, the price will go down to less than 1% higher than it would otherwise be.  

They were told that according to government analyses, the CPP would slow economic growth so that:

  • In 2020, the US economy (or GDP) would be one-third of one percent less than it would otherwise be;
  • In 2030 it would be one-sixth of one percent less;
  • While the net effect on jobs would be small, there would be significant losses in sectors like the coal industry.  

Respondents then got information about projected benefits of CPP, in terms of health effects and greenhouse gas reductions.  They were told: 

Because the Clean Power Plan will reduce air pollution—reducing soot and smog—this will have health benefits.  According to government analyses, these benefits will increase each year so that by the year 2030 it will result in the following benefits for that year: 

  • 300,000 fewer missed work days and school days, due to a drop in pollution-related illnesses
  • 90,000 fewer asthma attacks
  • 1,700 fewer heart attacks
  • 3,600 fewer premature deaths

Respondents were also told about the benefits relative to greenhouse gases, as follows:

Another benefit from the Clean Power Plan is that it helps the US meet the goal it set, together with other countries, to reduce its greenhouse gases by about 2% a year in an effort to slow the process of climate change.  

After the briefing, arguments for and against the CPP were evaluated. Both pro and con arguments were found convincing by a majority overall, with partisan differences. The pro argument was found convincing by a majority of Democrats but less than half of Republicans, while the con argument elicited the opposite response. 

Asked for their final recommendation, 69% favored the Clean Power Plan, including 89% of Democrats but just 47% of Republicans.

CONSTRAINING FOSSIL FUEL EXTRACTION

Program for Public Consultation (PPC) Survey

  • National Sample: 2,003
  • Margin of Error: +/- 2.2%
  • Fielded: March 9 - 23, 2018
  • Questionnaire

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below:

  • Granting waivers to coastal states requesting to keep in place the ban on offshore drilling
  • Lifting the regulation that offshore drilling equipment be inspected by independent auditors certified by the federal government
  • Renewing and increasing the tax on oil companies that goes towards an oil spill clean-up fund

Proposals that did not receive bipartisan support:

  • Lifting the ban on oil drilling along all of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and to expand the allowed area around Alaska

Center for Deliberative Democracy (CDD) Survey

  • National Sample: 523
  • Margin of Error: +/- 4.8%
  • Pre-event fielded: July 9 - August 5, 2019
  • Post-event fielded: September 22, 2019

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below:

  • Not allowing the expansion of oil and gas production on federal lands dedicated to wildlife preservation

OFFSHORE DRILLING

Currently, oil and gas are only being drilled along the Gulf Coast. There have been bans on drilling in the Atlantic and the Pacific coast since a series of major damaging oil spills, including the Santa Barbara spill in 1969 and the Exxon Valdez in 1989.  There are also limits on the Alaska coast.  

The new proposal is to lift these bans and allow drilling for oil and gas along all of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and to expand the allowed area around Alaska.

They then evaluated two sets of arguments for and against that proposal. The arguments against lifting the ban were found convincing by a larger and more bipartisan majority. There were significant partisan differences, with Republicans more likely to find the arguments in favor convincing, and vice versa for Democrats.

They were then asked whether they favored lifting the ban. Six in ten opposed this policy, but this was not bipartisan.  While 86% of Democrats opposed it but just one third of Republicans.

They were then introduced to a proposal concerning state-level action:

The proposal to allow offshore drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts affects 17 states.  As you may know, governors in 15 of the 17 states have requested waivers that would keep in place the ban on offshore drilling for their states.   The states requesting this waiver include -- Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, Oregon and Washington.  Florida has already been granted this waiver.  

Asked whether they favored granting these waivers, a bipartisan majority were in favor (71%), including 86% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans.

Respondents in the 15 states with governors who requested a waiver were also asked if they approved of that request. In those states, seven in ten approved, including 88% of Democrats and half of Republicans. 

Related Standard Polls
The public has become more divided over increasing offshore drilling:

  • Asked whether they support or oppose a policy to, “Expand offshore drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast,” 52% were opposed, including 66% of Democrats, but just three in ten Republicans (31%, favored 67%). (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked whether they support, “Expand[ing] offshore drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast,” 50% were in support and 50% opposed. Among Democrats, 69% were opposed. Among Republicans, 71% were in support. (April 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked if they favor “expanding each of the following sources of energy in our country: more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters,” 60% opposed, including 77% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 36% opposed and 64% favored. (2018, Pew Wave 33)

However, when asked about their support for drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge in particular, large bipartisan majorities has been opposed:

  • Asked whether they favor a policy to, “Drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” 71% opposed (Republicans 63%, Democrats 84%). (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked the same question months earlier, 70% were opposed (Republicans 56%, Democrats 82%) (April 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)

Status of Proposal
In 2019, a judge ruled that the Executive Order allowing offshore drilling off parts of Alaskan coast is unlawful, thus the ban on offshore drilling in that area still stands. The federal government’s plans to open up parts of the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts to drilling have been put on hold.

There were also several pieces of legislation in the 116th Congress to prohibit offshore drilling:

  • The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act (H.R. 1941), sponsored by Rep. Joe Cunningham (D), would prohibit the government from auctioning leases for oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This bill passed the House, with 226 Democrats and 12 Republicans voting in favor, and 5 Democrats, 183 Republicans and 1 independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.
  • The Coast Anti-Drilling Act (H.R. 341), sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D), would prohibit the government from auctioning leases for oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic coast and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. It has not made it out of committee.
  • The West Coast Ocean Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Jared Huffman (D) (H.R. 310) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) (S. 1318) would prohibit the government from auctioning leases for oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. It has not made it out of committee.

To address this concern, the federal government adopted a policy requiring this equipment to be inspected by federally-certified auditors. In 2017, the Department of Interior recommended removing this policy, but this recommendation has not been carried out. This has sparked debate between those who support the regulations as necessary safety precautions, and those who see it as unnecessary government overreach.

Respondents were first presented a briefing on oil spills and the safety requirements imposed to reduce the risk of their occurrence:

As you may recall, in 2010, there was a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by the company British Petroleum.  After the spill, a bipartisan presidential commission was established to look at what went wrong and to make recommendations. The Commission concluded that the government oversight of compliance with safety standards was not adequate. The commission recommended higher safety standards and that outside independent auditors, certified by the federal government, conduct inspections to ensure companies’ compliance with the safety standards.

The cost of the inspection was to be covered by the companies.  These recommendations were adopted by the government and independent auditors have been conducting regular inspections.  

They were then told about a proposal to change the safety requirements:

Currently, there is a proposal to eliminate the requirement that companies hire independent auditors, certified by the federal government, to conduct inspections to ensure compliance with safety standards.

Arguments for and against the proposal were then evaluated. The argument in favor was not found convincing by a majority of any group, while the argument against was found convincing by a large bipartisan majority.

Finally, asked whether they favored removing the requirement that oil drilling companies hire independent auditors to conduct safety inspections, a large bipartisan majority of three in four opposed, including 68% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats.

Status of Proposal
The Department of Interior recommended removing the policy that oil drilling companies hire independent auditors to conduct safety inspections. This recommendation was not acted on, and the policy requiring independent auditors is still in place.

There has been a concern over how the clean-up of oil spills should be paid for, as some oil companies are not able to fully cover the costs. 

To address this concern, in 1990 the federal government implemented a tax on oil companies that would go into a clean-up fund if the company responsible for the spill couldn’t cover the costs or if the responsible party was unknown. In 2018, this tax expired. In 2019, the tax was renewed by the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act.

Respondents were presented a briefing on oil spills and policies for funding their clean-up:

As you probably know, there have been many oil spills, both on land as well as offshore, when there is an accident or breakdown of an oil carrier, a pipeline, or an oil rig.  While you may have heard about the big spills, there are also many small and medium spills.   As a general rule, the company that owns the system that caused the spill is responsible for paying the costs of the cleanup.  However, in some cases the company does not have the financial means to pay for the cleanup or they resist taking responsibility.  

Because it is important to react quickly to an oil spill in order to prevent further damage, in 1986, Congress created a special fund to pay the cost of acting immediately in the event that the responsible company does not act promptly.  

The federal government is still empowered to pursue companies to cover those costs later. Though most companies repay the fund, sometimes there is a legal battle and sometimes the company does not have the means to pay or goes out of business.   

To pay for this fund, Congress imposed a 9 cent per barrel tax on all oil companies. The fund has received about $500 million per year from oil companies.

They were then informed that:

While this tax has been renewed numerous times over the years, it has at times lapsed, and most recently was only renewed for one year. 

Finally, they were presented with a proposal “to renew the tax for a 5 year period and to raise the amount to 10 cents.  (The amount has not been adjusted for inflation since the tax was established in 1986.)

Arguments for and against this proposal were evaluated, with the argument in favor doing overwhelmingly better among all groups, by around 60 points. 

In the end, a large bipartisan majority of 85% favored the proposal, including 78% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats.

Status of Proposal
The excise tax on oil expired in 2018, and was renewed in 2019 by the larger spending bill -- the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) in the 116th Congress. It passed the House with 218 Democrats and 79 Republicans voting in favor, and 7 Democrats, 112 Republicans and one independent voting against. It passed the Senate with 39 Democrats, 31 Republicans and one independent voting in favor, and two Democrats and 21 Republicans voting against.

OIL AND GAS DRILLING IN ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE AREAS

Respondents were presented with the following briefing material as part of an in-person deliberation conducted by Stanford University’s Center for Deliberative Democracy in September 2019:

Instead of focusing on climate change, some Americans believe the US should expand oil and gas production. This focus, they maintain, can ensure an abundant, secure supply of energy for the US, increase prosperity and jobs, and lower energy prices for consumers. Even though the US is the world’s largest oil producer, it still imports more oil and gas than it exports, and, they say, energy independence is important for our national security. Additionally, many believe that government regulation should not constrain private sector innovation.

In contrast, advocates for a rapid switch to renewable energy sources stress that human reliance on fossil fuels is driving a disastrous acceleration of climate change; that renewable energy is the ultimate form of energy security, and that the private sector can be incentivized to speed up innovation for renewable energy.

Some advocate expanded oil and gas production on federal lands now dedicated to wildlife preservation. They believe we can design less restrictive regulations, while still maintaining our national commitment to protecting endangered species and ecosystems.

But critics of this approach assert that the Department of Interior’s current efforts to protect federal lands are already too weak, and that we need stronger restrictions in light of the growing threat of extinction faced by many species and natural environments.

Another issue in environmental and energy policy today concerns the pros and cons of fracking.

Advocates want to allow fracking in oil and gas fields throughout the United States in order to increase oil and gas production. Fracking, they argue, will create many new jobs and bring forth new sources of oil and gas and will enable us to speed up the closing of much dirtier coal-burning power plants.

But critics believe fracking only deepens our dependence on fossil fuels, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, while also contaminating drinking water and posing other risks to health for workers and people in nearby communities.

They were then presented with a proposal and arguments for and against:

Proposal: The US should expand oil and gas production on federal lands previously dedicated to wildlife preservation.

Argument in Favor: We need more domestic oil and gas production for our prosperity and security, and it is possible to design less restrictive Regulations in a fashion that continues to protect endangered species and ecosystems.

Argument Against: The Department of Interior’s current efforts to protect the environmental integrity of federal lands are too weak, not too strong. They need strengthened in light of the growing threat of extinction faced by many species and possible other harm to natural environments.

After receiving the briefing material, respondents deliberated on the proposals in-person. Finally, they were asked for their final recommendation. On a 0-10 scale, 76% opposed the proposal (0-4), including 54% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. 

Pre-Deliberation Poll
Before receiving any briefing materials or engaging in the deliberation process respondents were given the same poll question as those asked afterwards. Opposition increased from the pre-deliberation poll to the post-deliberation poll, overall (67% to 76%), and among Republicans (39% to 54%) and Democrats (82% to 88%). 

Related Standard Polls
A bipartisan majority is opposed to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

  • Asked whether they favor a policy to, “Drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” 71% opposed (Republicans 63%, Democrats 84%)

When it comes to drilling in public land in general, partisan majorities have been opposed, with a majority of Democrats opposed, and a majority of Republicans in favor:

  • Asked whether they favor a policy to, “Drill for and mine fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) on public lands in the U.S.,” 61% were opposed, including 75% of Democrats and 38% of Republicans (61% supported). (December 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)
  • Asked the same question months earlier, 54% were opposed, including 77% of Democrats and 32% of Republicans (69% supported). (April 2020, Yale University/George Mason University)