POLITICS
01/23/2017 07:33 pm ET

Two-Thirds Of Americans Disagree With Trump's Focus On Fossil Fuels

The president promises to boost oil and coal, but Americans' interest in renewable energy is growing.

As President Donald Trump prepares to boost fossil fuel production, a Pew Research Center poll finds that 65 percent of Americans would rather the U.S. focus on developing clean energy.

The new poll, released Monday, shows that 27 percent said fossil fuels should be a priority, compared with 65 percent who favored renewable energy. Public support for renewable fuels has risen 5 percentage points since 2014, Pew said, with 81 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans now backing it as a priority. Among those aged 18 to 49, 73 percent favored renewables, compared with half of those over 50.

Renewable energy gets scant attention on the new president’s agenda. Many climate scientists say investing in clean energy, such as solar, water and wind power, can help combat climate change. Instead, Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and has pledged to revive the coal industry by stripping environmental regulations ― ignoring pleas from more than 800 science and energy experts.

Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” is outlined on the White House website, which featured former President Barack Obama’s robust climate action plan before it was taken down hours after last week’s inauguration.

The new president’s energy plan boasts that the Trump administration:

... will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

The plan echoes a November video message posted to YouTube in which Trump pledged to undo fossil fuel restrictions his first 100 days in office and create “many millions of high-paying jobs” in coal and shale.

Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, issued an executive memorandum hours after the inauguration, freezing all new government rules and regulations, including four Obama administration rules to boost energy efficiency.

Trump’s fondness for petroleum shows in his proposed Cabinet, which includes former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, and Oklahoma attorney general and climate-denier Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Police remove a protester at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, the former chairm
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Police remove a protester at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 11, 2017.

Trump has been antagonistic to renewable energy. He said in August that solar, the fastest-growing source of energy, “has a lot of problems” and is “not working so good.” Wind farms, he tweeted in 2012, are “disgusting looking” and were “killing the finances and environment of many countries and communities.”

Last year proved the hottest year on record, resulting in severe weather that included extreme flooding and deadly wildfires. Still, the Pew Research Center poll found just 12 percent of conservative Republicans and Republican leaners believe climate change is a major threat to the well-being of the United States. 

Leaders in dozens of cities are standing up to Trump, pledging commitment to renewable energy.

“We ask that you lead us in expanding the renewable energy sources we need to achieve energy security [and] address climate change” a group of mayors wrote in a November open letter to Trump. “While we are prepared to forge ahead even in the absence of federal support, we know that if we stand united on this issue, we can make change that will resonate for generations.”

The Pew Research Center poll was conducted Jan. 4 to Jan. 9, with a nationally representative sample of 1,502 U.S. adults.

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