Solar, wind get strong support in Midwestern poll

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 19, 2012 - 5:18 PM

Most people in four Midwestern states would pay slightly higher utility bills to boost clean energy and energy efficiency, a poll has found.

The survey of 1,600 voters Jan. 9-15 found that 51 percent of people in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio were willing to pay up to $6 more per month on electric bills for energy conservation efforts and clean power sources like wind and solar. Another 37 percent of those surveyed would pay $2 to $4 more, while 8 percent were not willing to pay anything more.

The poll was conducted jointly by Democratic pollster Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Metz and Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a St. Paul nonprofit that supports renewable energy. The poll has a 2.9 percent margin of error.

The poll asked people what energy sources they believed should be increased. The top three were solar (87 percent), wind (86 percent) and natural gas (85 percent), but majorities favored increasing most kinds of energy, including coal and nuclear.

Biomass fared poorly until pollsters explained what it is. Then support shot to 80 percent. Biomass energy comes from grasses, wood chips and other plant matter.

Despite support for natural gas, three of five of respondents opposed hydraulic fracking, the blasting of water, chemicals and sand underground to release gas in shale. The technique, used in Ohio and other states, has boosted output and driven down gas prices.

Steve Morse, executive director of the environmental partnership, said the poll sends a message to political leaders about clean energy and energy conservation.

"It doesn't make any sense to be against it because it will kill you politically," he said.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090

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