Poll: Pennsylvanians want low energy prices above all else

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(The Center Square) — Pennsylvanians worry about pollution and other harms to nature — but their primary concern is keeping energy bills low and ensuring reliable power.

And, to deal with climate change, almost 8-in-10 Pennsylvanians aren’t willing to spend $100 or more every year out of pocket.

A new survey on Pennsylvanians’ energy thoughts, released by the Commonwealth Foundation on Thursday, shows strong support for maintaining energy independence, but also highlights contradictory thinking on energy policy.

“Pennsylvania voters have made it clear they prioritize energy affordability and reliability over climate alarmism,” said André Béliveau, Commonwealth Foundation’s senior manager of energy policy. “Likewise, Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support economic freedom and oppose excessive government regulations and red tape.”

Rising costs in recent years seem to be motivating voters. Statewide, 80% of respondents said their energy bills have gone up.

While a majority of Pennsylvanians are willing to conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances, switching to reusable shopping bags, recycling more, and lowering the heat during the winter to protect the environment, more-dramatic changes were a tough sell.

Only 13% said they’d bike or walk instead of driving, 10% said they’d take public transportation, and 6% said they’d pay more for green energy.

Those views didn’t translate into a clear advantage for either aspiring presidential candidate. Donald Trump had 37% support and Joe Biden had 34% support when respondents were asked who would make energy more affordable for Americans — within the poll’s margin of error.

But Pennsylvanians were more united on other energy proposals, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that would levy a carbon tax, or banning outright some appliances.

“They’re clearly not in favor of some of the more heavy-handed mandates that restrict certain types of power,” said Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis at the Commonwealth Foundation.

Though the poll was conducted before Gov. Shapiro announced his new carbon tax and energy standard plans last week, the results don’t bode well, given that respondents opposed RGGI 54% to 22% support.

On how to source power, though, things get less clear. Poll respondents worried about rising energy costs the most, followed by grid reliability and environmental damage, but they also supported the expansion of solar, wind, hydroelectric, and natural gas production.

The expansion of renewable energy like solar and wind has heightened reliability concerns, with energy officials warning that those sources, along with natural gas, means the grid is less reliable. Policy choices, meanwhile, have forced power plants to close before a reliable alternative is in place.

“This is just mainly an issue of voter education,” Béliveau said . “I don’t think most voters understand that (wind and solar are) not reliable, and I don’t think they understand the cost that increasing these would incur.”