Friday, April 27, 2007

Warming Action Divides Public

The majority of Americans believe that global climate change is a problem that demands immediate action, but that is where the consensus breaks down, according to a story in the New York Times.
When it comes to specific steps to foster conservation or produce more energy, the public is deeply torn, the poll found. Respondents said they would support higher gasoline prices to reduce dependence on foreign oil but would oppose higher prices to combat global warming.
By large margins, respondents opposed an increase in pump prices of $2 a gallon, or even $1, to deal with environmental and energy-supply concerns. Three-quarters said they would be willing to pay more for electricity generated by renewable sources like solar or wind energy.
The negative view of new gasoline taxes may reflect the wide expectation that pump prices will continue to increase regardless of government action. More than 80 percent foresee higher prices in coming months, with many citing the Iraq war as a primary cause. Most respondents said they did not expect that any withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would cause prices to fall.
Nearly half of those polled also said they did not believe that their fellow Americans would be willing to change driving habits to save gasoline or reduce the production of heat-trapping gases, which most scientists say contribute to the warming.
Respondents expressed little confidence in President Bush’s handling of environmental or energy issues, and a majority of those polled, including many Republicans, said Democrats were more likely than Republicans to protect the environment and foster energy independence.
One-third approved Mr. Bush’s handling of the environment and 27 percent approved his approach to energy questions. Democrats have criticized Mr. Bush’s policies on energy and the environment almost from the day he took office. Those policies have also cost him some Republican support, the poll showed.
“I think the Republicans have slashed the funds for cleanup of the environment, and if it comes down to whether or not it will cost big business, forget about the cleanup,” said Ron Gellerman, 65, a respondent from Maple Grove, Minn., who said he was a Republican.
“The Democrats are more willing to spend dollars on pure research,” Mr. Gellerman added in a follow-up interview after the poll was completed. “They’re open to alternative sources of energy, like wind. We could save more energy by increasing the efficiency of our electrical system and our automobiles. And the Democrats would be more willing to look at that sort of thing because they’re not so beholden to Big Oil.”
Many governors, members of Congress and presidential hopefuls from both parties have been more outspoken than Mr. Bush on the need to take immediate steps to combat global warming and reduce oil imports.
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