By Darren Goode - 10/14/10 10:41 AM EDT
There is also majority support — ranging from 77 percent in Italy to 60 percent in the U.S. — for using government subsidies to fund biofuels. As many as 34 percent of people in Spain and as few as 13 percent in Britain “strongly” favor the subsidies approach.
Most of those polled said they would not be willing to pay more than an additional 5 percent in their energy bills to use renewable energy. Nearly a third — 32 percent in the U.S. and 31 percent in Italy — said they would be willing to pay more. Only 17 percent in Spain and 20 percent in France said the same.
People polled in the U.S., Britain and France were essentially divided on building more nuclear plants, while more than 60 percent in Italy and Spain and 77 percent in Germany were opposed to the idea.
The poll surveyed 6,255 adults in the U.S., France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Italy from Sept. 15-21.
Wind and nuclear advocates aimed to put the best spin on the poll results.
Peter Kelley, a spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), said it reaffirms strong public support for wind power. “There are few things in this world that get 87 percent of support from the American public,” he said.
Kelley said the poll also suggests public backing for Congress to enact a renewable electricity standard (RES). By AWEA’s estimate, such a national mandate would lower energy bills by driving down the cost of natural gas. “When asked whether they want to pay more, well, they don’t have to pay more,” Kelley said.
Perhaps pre-dating a fight between renewable and nuclear advocates in future RES discussions, Kelley argued that wind energy does not require the type of insurance protection that nuclear facilities require.
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, said the Harris poll does not appear to fully reflect other polls this year from the Pew Research Center and Gallup showing stronger support for nuclear power.
He also noted that the Energy Information Administration in April 2009 forecasted that the “levelized” cost of electricity from advanced nuclear power in 2016 — which takes into account installed system price and a combination of other costs such as insurance, financing, land, transmission, operation and maintenance — will be lower than from solar and wind.
A bipartisan coalition led by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is trying to get a Senate vote on their RES plan in a lame-duck session, requiring 15 percent of electricity produced to come from sources like wind, solar and geothermal sources. A quarter of the mandate could also come from energy efficiency practices.
Critics, though, are quick to argue that the standard would penalize some states in the South and elsewhere that have less renewable energy resources available. There is also a push particularly by Republicans for the mandate to include more nuclear and hydroelectric power and coal produced using carbon capture and storage technology.