Could Embracing Clean Energy Help the GOP?

Susan Frank
Director, California Business Alliance for a Green Economy

“We want to be the first city that produces more electricity from solar energy than we consume on a daily basis.”

You might be thinking that the Mayor of Berkeley said that, but in fact, it was R. Rex Parris, the Republican Mayor of Lancaster, California, a high desert city known for hosting the annual California Poppy Festival. As of this year, it also has the distinction of becoming the first city in the United States to require solar panels on all new homes in an effort to make the community more carbon neutral.

Mayor Parris is just one example – Republican elected officials around the state and country are embracing clean energy because it is a job creator and benefits local communities. They are following the path of former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, who has touted the economic and energy security benefits of clean energy to GOP audience for years.

What’s more, a recently released national survey conducted by the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication shows that a majority of Republican and Republican-leaning voters believe that climate change is happening — and that 77 percent of respondents believe the U.S. should transition to clean energy sources.

So why do we keep hearing a familiar refrain from some who claim that California’s clean energy policies aren’t really working? (“Does Energy Policy Give Republicans A Road to Relevancy?” May 6, 2013) The only answer I can think of is that those who make these claims are so worried that clean, efficient energy will threaten the status quo, and our dependence on dirty energy, that it is easiest to spread false information than to focus on the facts.

California’s “green energy basket,” which encompasses a suite of programs under AB 32, includes a renewable portfolio standard, clean vehicle standards, commercial recycling and more. The market-based cap and trade program – a policy idea first advanced by the Reagan Administration – is a strategy that accounts for only 16 percent of California’s overall emissions reductions.

The California Business Roundtable is a longtime opponent of AB 32, so a poll commissioned by that organization has to be viewed with a critical eye. The polling firm hired by CBRT conducts its surveys based on Internet panels, not random samples of all registered voters, which means there is no accounting for sampling error. In addition, the people they interview are drawn from panels who have signed up to take surveys on the Internet for money.

Look at the Public Policy Institute of California’s recent polling, and you see a more reliable methodology, polling that isn’t paid for by a business group with a specific agenda, and a survey that demonstrates clear support from voters (71 percent) for policies like AB 32.

To sum up: are we to believe highly-regarded PPIC and George Mason University research or biased questions asked of non-random samples of people who are being paid for their answers?

Regardless of political ideology, we all need to embrace the notion that clean energy is here to stay, or else be content holding a view that is out of touch with most Californians.

 

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