A huge majority of Americans support regulating carbon from power plants. And they’re even willing to pay for it.

June 2

A lopsided and bipartisan majority of Americans support federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that also finds most are willing to stomach a higher energy bill to pay for it.


Matt Brown/Associated Press - Smoke rises from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, a coal burning power plant in in Colstrip, Mont. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed the Obama administration an important victory in its effort to reduce power plant pollution that contributes to unhealthy air in neighboring states.

Fully 70 percent say the federal government should require limits to greenhouse gases from existing power plants, the focus of a new rule announced Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency. An identical 70 percent supports requiring states to limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions within their borders.  (Read everything you need to know about the EPA's proposed rules).

Democrats and Republicans are in rare agreement on the issue. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans, 76 percent among independents and 79 percent of Democrats support state-level limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Strong tea party supporters are most resistant to limits on emissions by states and power plants; 50 percent say the federal government should impose caps, while 45 percent say they should not.

The cross-party agreement extends to a willingness to pay for such limits with higher energy bills, a flashpoint for debate and a key area of uncertainty in new regulations. Asked whether Washington should still go forward with limits if they "significantly lowered greenhouse gases but raised your monthly energy expenses by 20 dollars a month," 63 percent of respondents say yes, including 51 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents and 71 percent of Democrats.

Americans living in coal-heavy states are supportive of limiting greenhouse gas emissions in the poll, even as their states will be forced to make bigger adjustments to meet the EPA's new emissions targets. Among those in states where a majority of electricity is produced by burning coal, 69 percent say the government should place limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Support is a similar 71 percent in states where less than half of electricity comes from coal.*

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said during a news conference on Monday that "the high costs of climate inaction" are affecting American children and families today and it is important to limit carbon pollution. She proposed new regulations for a "clean power plant." (The Associated Press)

 

The overall results are closely in line with Post-ABC polling since 2009, where between 65 and 75 percent have supported limits on greenhouse gases from power plants. In the new survey, half of respondents were asked about direct limits on power plants while half were asked about new regulations placing the onus for emissions limits on states. In each phrasing 70 percent supported federal government limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Wide support for greenhouse gas emissions parallels a broad concerns over the impact of global warming. Nearly seven in 10 say "global warming, also known as climate change" is a serious problem facing the country, with 57 percent calling it "very serious." Three quarters of Democrats say global warming is a very serious problem, compared with just 33 percent of Republicans.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted May 29 to June 1 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, including users of conventional and cellular phones. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

*States where coal represents the majority of electricity consumed: West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Utah, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, Maryland, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Tennessee, Arkansas, Montana. The sample size for respondents in these states is 280, carrying a margin of error of seven percentage points. Data on state consumption from the Energy Information Agency.

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