Californians appeared to show their strong environmental side in the Public Policy Institute of California poll released yesterday, yet there is a thorn buried in those roses — the issue of cost.
Most glaringly, the cost factor was revealed when PPIC pollsters asked respondents if they favored the state law in which one-third of the state’s energy must come from renewable sources by 2020. Likely voters resoundingly said, “Yes” at 75%.
However, when the pollsters followed up by asking those likely voters who favored the law would they still support it if they knew it means their electricity bill would increase, support dropped to 48%.
PPIC reports that support for the mandate fell about 30% across the board with Democrats (88% to 57%), Republicans (64% to 32%) and Independents (75% to 47%) all reacting adversely to the idea of increased costs.
Which begs the question, how would those polled react to some of the other issues in the survey if they were informed that the proposals brought with them potential cost increases in goods and services?
To be sure, those responding to the poll clearly sided with measures that have been hailed as pro-environment. Majorities said that global warming has begun and the state should take steps now to confront it. They overwhelmingly supported regulations to require lower emission transportation fuels and industry and commercial facilities to reduce emissions.
Further, a healthy majority supported California’s cap-and-trade policy and the law to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020.
However, unlike the question asked about renewable sources there was no mention of increased costs associated with any of these policies.
The question then remains would the numbers be as strong if a cost was associated with the policy as it was with the renewable energy question? Many in the business community complain that the greenhouse gases law, for example, will add to their costs, which in most cases will be passed on to consumers.
The cost issue comes up again in a roundabout way when respondents supported increased federal funding for wind, solar and hydrogen technology. Would the answer be the same if the funding came closer to home from the state government and its taxpayers? We don’t know because the question wasn’t asked.
Clearly, the voters reacted negatively to the idea that their electric bills would go up. It’s safe to assume there would be a shift in the poll numbers if costs were attached to the other proposals.