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Predicting public support for renewable energy policy


Photo credit: AJ Hudson
Photo credit: AJ Hudson

We are pleased to announce a new publication in Energy Policy entitled The influence of extractive industries on public support for renewable energy policy.

There is broad public support for renewable energy in the United States. However, renewable energy policies are increasingly being politically contested. This study investigates what factors shape public support for and opposition to renewable energy policies.

Drawing on eight years of nationally representative public opinion data (N = 13,233) and county-level mining, oil, and gas production data, we found that individuals living in counties dependent on mining or producing natural gas were less likely to support renewable energy policies than individuals living elsewhere, even when controlling for political ideology and other socio-demographic factors. We did not, however, find a similar pattern among individuals living in oil producing counties.

We also found a strong relationship between understanding that human-caused global warming is happening and support for renewable energy policy. Additionally, being politically liberal, more educated, and female were positively associated with policy support.

There are a couple reasons why individuals in communities dependent on extractive activities might be less likely to support renewable energy policies. First, cultural identity may play a role especially for individuals living in communities with a long history of extractive activities like mining. Second, renewable energy may be perceived as a threat to local economies, such as jobs in coal mining or power plants. We note, however, that over forty percent of survey respondents were from mining-dependent counties where coal mining does not occur – in this case, cultural identity may be a larger factor.

This research suggests that strengthening and diversifying local economies, while honoring local history and culture in communities dependent on extractive industries should play an important role in the transition to a low-carbon future.

The article is available here to those with a subscription to Energy Policy. If you would like to request a copy, please send an email to climatechange@yale.edu, with the subject line: “Extractive industries energy policy paper request.”

Olson-Hazboun, S.K., P. Howe, and A. Leiserowitz. (2018). “The influence of extractive activities on public support for renewable energy policy.” Energy Policy 123: 117-126.