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Willingness to Pay and Political Support for a U.S. National Clean Energy Standard

In 2010 and 2011, Republicans and Democrats proposed mandating clean power generation in the electricity sector. To evaluate public support for a national clean energy standard (NCES), we conducted a nationally representative survey that included randomized treatments on the sources of eligible power generation and programme costs. We find that the average US citizen is willing to pay US$162 per year in higher electricity bills (95% confidence interval: US$128–260), representing a 13% increase, in support of a NCES that requires 80% clean energy by 2035. Support for a NCES is lower among non-whites, older individuals and Republicans. We also employ our statistical model, along with census data for each state and Congressional district, to simulate voting behaviour on a NCES by Members of Congress assuming they vote consistently with the preferences of their median voter. We estimate that Senate passage of a NCES would require an average household cost below US$59 per year, and House passage would require costs below US$48 per year. The results imply that an ‘80% by 2035’ NCES could pass both chambers of Congress if it increases electricity rates less than 5% on average.

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