AAEF Statewide Poll Shows Arkansas Voters Heavily Favor Renewable Energy, Natural Gas & Energy Efficiency over Coal
Little Rock, AR – Two-thirds of Arkansas voters support proposed rules by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that require Arkansas power companies to significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions released by their coal-fired electricity generating plants, according to a new poll commissioned by the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation (AAEF) and released today.
The survey of 600 registered Arkansas voters was completed in late December, 2014, by Clint Reed, a Partner at Impact Management Group, a public affairs firm based in Little Rock.
The poll found solid voter support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and arguments for and against the plan did little to change their minds. The most effective argument in support of the plan is its job creation potential in the advanced energy industry, while voters expressed most concern about claims that the plan will lead to higher energy costs for Arkansas families. Prior to hearing any opinions, survey respondents favored the Clean Power Plan 67 to 26 percent with the balance undecided. After hearing various arguments for and against the plan, voters showed little change with 66 percent for and 30 percent against.
Even though the cost of renewable energy has decreased dramatically in the last four years to be competitive with fossil fuels, opponents of the Clean Power Plan argue that it will hurt Arkansas energy consumers. AAEF asked Arkansas voters if they would be willing to pay more in the short term for energy from renewable sources like wind and solar if it would reduce carbon pollution and make Arkansas less dependent on imported energy resources. A combined total of 53 percent said they would pay more while 46 percent said they would not. The “pay more” respondents had various levels of rate tolerance. Twenty-one percent said they would pay $2 more per month; 18 percent said $4 per month while 14 percent said they would pay more than $4 monthly.
Arkansas voters also showed little tolerance for coal as an energy source for the state. When asked how the state’s energy needs would best be met over the next 10 years, 32 percent preferred increased reliance on renewable energy; 29 percent chose natural gas; 16 percent said the state should rely more on energy efficiency and only 10 percent preferred increasing the use of coal. Seven percent chose nuclear power.
When given the choice, 72 percent of respondents believed that it was a good idea to retire one or more coal-fired plants and replace them with natural gas power plants as well as generate more energy from renewable sources and increased energy efficiency.
The poll also found that Arkansas voters overwhelmingly believe it is important for Arkansas’s political leaders to develop policies that encourage energy efficiency and expand access to these renewable energy sources. More than 8 of 10 surveyed (81%) considered it important for Arkansas political leaders to develop helpful policies, 51% found it very important.
“We are encouraged to see that the large majority of Arkansas voters are way ahead of the state’s political leaders in showing their support for policies like the Clean Power Plan that will modernize our power grid while increasing jobs in the advanced energy sector,” said Steve Patterson, Executive Director of AAEF. “Policies at both the state and federal level are needed to increase the use of renewable energy and encourage energy efficiency. Clearly, most Arkansans are well versed in the proven potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to make a significant contribution in emissions reduction while also boosting economic development and jobs across the state.”
Other key findings in the AAEF Poll:
- 43% of respondents said their utility bill is too high while 55% said it’s just about right;
- On the causes of climate change, 43% of Arkansans believe it is man-made; 39% said it is due to natural causes while 14% believe it isn’t real;
- 46% believe that the state’s economy is strong or recovering; 33% believe it is weak or approaching recession. These numbers reflect the most optimism among Arkansas voters in five years of Impact Management polling;
- The economy is still the number one issue on voters’ minds – 30%;
- 56% of respondents had a favorable view of Governor Asa Hutchinson with 23% unfavorable;
- Only 39% had a favorable view of President Obama with 57% unfavorable;
- Just two months after winning his U.S. Senate race, Senator Tom Cotton was viewed favorably by 47% and 37% unfavorably;
- Senator John Boozman was rated favorably by 41% while 22% rated him unfavorably.