WSJ: Obama Carbon Rule Backed by Most Americans – Poll

More than two-thirds of Americans support President Barack Obama’s new climate rule and more than half say the U.S. should address global warming even if it means higher electricity bills, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.


Widespread support for the carbon rule, unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month, is a rare bright spot for Mr. Obama, who otherwise received mostly low marks by poll respondents on topics ranging from his overall competence to his administration’s decision to trade five imprisoned Taliban officials in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.


The poll finds that 67% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support EPA’s new rule, while only 29% oppose it. Americans are also increasingly willing to stomach higher electricity costs in order to cut carbon emissions. More than half of poll respondents—57%—said they would support a proposal requiring companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming even if it means higher utility bills. That figure is up 9 percentage points since October 2009.


The EPA on June 2 released a draft rule to regulate carbon emissions from hundreds of fossil-fired power plants across the U.S., including roughly 600 coal plants that will be hit the hardest. Coal is the most plentiful electricity source, providing roughly 40% of the nation’s electricity, but it also emits about twice as much carbon as natural gas when burned. The proposed rule mandates that power plants cut U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions 30% by 2030 compared to levels seen in 2005, an aggressive target that marks the first attempt at limiting such pollution.


The EPA rule is the cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s climate-change agenda that both he and his top advisers, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, have been touting in recent weeks. They also criticize lawmakers and interest-group leaders who doubt both the science behind climate change and the purpose of EPA’s rule. On both of these accounts, more Americans are siding with the Obama administration than otherwise, according to the WSJ/NBC poll.


More Americans today (61%) compared with five years ago (54%) say that climate change is occurring and that some sort of action should be taken. This indicates that a majority of Americans are out of step with most congressional Republicans who refuse to discuss climate change or propose policies to address it. The percentage of Americans who doubt climate science and don’t think action should be taken is slightly less today (37%) compared to 2009 (41%).


Industry trade groups, especially the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have criticized the rule and said it would impose high compliance costs onto utility companies and not make a difference on a global scale in terms of carbon emissions. EPA and environmental groups backing the agency’s rule argue that the economic and public-health benefits of the rule far outweigh the annual compliance costs, which EPA calculated would be up to $8.8 billion.


EPA and its proponents are garnering more support from Americans than those who criticize the agency. A majority of respondents—53%—agree with the position taken by EPA and its supporters, while just 39% of poll respondents sided with the claims laid out by EPA’s opponents.


This support is in line with Americans’ overall support of—or at least neutral take on—EPA as a federal agency.


Of the seven public figures and groups the WSJ/NBC poll asked respondents to rate their feelings about, EPA had by far the least negative response. Just 28% of respondents said they had a negative feeling toward the agency, nearly 10 percentage points lower than the other two least negative ratings: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (at 37% negative) and Vice President Joe Biden (36% negative). The agency, which was established by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970, also garnered the most neutral feelings out of all seven public figures and groups at 27%. Forty percent of respondents said they had a positive feeling about EPA, second to Ms. Clinton at 44% and Mr. Obama at 41%. Broadly speaking, half of all Americans say most federal regulations are necessary to protect the environment, up 10 percentage points since 1995.


The poll, conducted June 11 through 15, surveyed 1,000 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.