Environmental concerns conflict with pocketbooks in new survey

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Californians want action to reduce air pollution linked to global warming, but many of us just don't want to pay for it. Those are among the findings of a new survey on environmental attitudes from the Public Policy Institute of California. 

Just over 60 percent of respondents said they wanted the state to take steps "right way" to curb greenhouse gas emissions. And more than two-thirds back the state's landmark law (AB-32) that seeks to roll those emissions back to 1990 levels within the next six years. 

But when asked whether oil companies should be required to make gasoline that produces fewer emissions — a key provision of AB-32 that takes effect next year — just 39 percent of respondents statewide said they'd be willing to pay more at the pump to make that happen.

The graph below shows how L.A. County compares with the Bay Area on that question.

Do you favor requiring oil companies to make gasoline that produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions if that means higher gas prices?

The findings came from a telephone survey PPIC conducted with more than 1,700 California adults  from July 8 through July 15.

Another key provision in implementing AB-32 is requiring more of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources. In the survey, more than three-quarters of respondents statewide supported efforts to get one-third of the state's power supply from renewables by 2020.  But that support falls to 46% if meeting that goal means having to pay higher electricity bills.

The graph below shows how L.A. County compares with the Bay Area on that question.

Do you favor requiring one-third of the state's electricity to come from renewable energy sources by the year 2020 if it means an increase in your own electricity bill?

"Californians want to see government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said PPIC president and CEO Mark Baldassare. "But their strong support for clean energy policies diminishes if they have to pay higher electricity bills or gas prices."

Interestingly, AB-32 biggest achievement -- creation of a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions -- appears to have flown under the radar of most respondents. Fifty-five percent said they'd heard "nothing at all" about the program. 

While just over half of respondents called climate change a threat to California's economy and quality of life, it tied for third as the most important environmental issue facing California today.

More than a third named water supply and the drought the state's top environmental challenge.

The chart below shows the importance respondents statewide placed on a variety of environmental issues 

This year's marks the first time that air pollution has not been the top issue since PPIC started doing its environmental survey in 2000. Nearly 80% of respondents said water supply was either "somewhat of a problem" (25%) or a "big problem" (54%). At the same time, three-quarters of respondents said they favored mandatory restrictions on water use. Last week state regulators voted to require localities to implement such restrictions if they haven't already done so.

Below is a graph that shows how L.A. County compares with the Bay Area on this question.

Do you favor your local water district making it mandatory for residents to reduce their water use?

A breakdown of the most important environmental issues by regions shows Californians' attitudes differ by where they live. (Cursor over the columns to see details): 

Flip through PPIC's full report below to Californians' attitudes on off-shore oil drilling, fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. 

PPIC statewide study: Californians and the environment


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