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California Still Green

The state that started it all -- California – is still at it. The Golden State, which started the modern renewable energy era and now has the most aggressive program in the country, is still at it.

A new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) was just released.

The Japanese nuclear disaster seems to have had an effect, eroding support for that technology and boosting renewable. California already has the most aggressive clean energy policies in the country, with a mandate for 33 percent renewables by the end of the decade.

In the wake of the Japanese nuclear crisis, support for building more nuclear power plants in California has dropped sharply. Today, 65 percent of adults oppose building more plants and 30 percent are in favor—the lowest level of support since PPIC began asking the question and a 14-point drop since last July (44% in favor).

"With spikes in gas prices at home and nuclear power failures in Japan, Californians are strongly supportive of policies that encourage more fuel efficiency and renewable energy,” says Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC.

Support is also strong (80%) for increased federal funding to develop renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydrogen technology. Solid majorities across parties, regions, and demographic groups hold this view. California policy requires that one-third of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020. It gets the support of 77 percent of Californians. What if this policy results in higher electricity bills? Just under half (46%) of adults favor it.

The economic and political climate, of which California has had more than its share of troubles, has not materially diminished support for clean technologies. Most Californians continue to support the state’s climate change policy. Most believe global warming is a serious threat to the state’s future economy, with 47 percent seeing it as a very serious threat and 28 percent saying it is somewhat serious.

The principle behind AB 32—the California law requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020—enjoys majority support (67% favor, 21% oppose, 11% don’t know). Most (57%) believe that the state government should make its own policies, separate from the federal government’s, to address global warming.

The effects of global warming have already begun in the view of 61 percent of adults. This is an increase of 7 points since last July (54%) but similar to previous years (61% in 2009, 64% in 2008, 66% in 2007, and 63% in 2006). Another 22 percent say the impact of global warming will occur sometime in the future: 4 percent say it will start within a few years, 7 percent say within their lifetime, and 11 percent say it will affect future generations. Twelve percent say it will never occur. Across parties, Democrats (69%) and independents (62%) are far more likely than Republicans (40%) to say the effects of global warming have already begun. The view that the effects of global warming have begun is up 10 points among Republicans, up 7 points among independents, and similar to last year among Democrats.

Residents overwhelmingly favor (79%) government regulation of the release of greenhouse gases from sources such as power plants, cars, and factories to reduce global warming. Strong majorities favor several options under discussion at the state and federal level to address climate change: requiring utilities to increase their use of renewable energy (82%), industry to reduce emissions (82%), and automakers to reduce emissions from new cars (81%).

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