The Partnership for a Better Energy Future yesterday released the results of a public opinion survey on the EPA's proposal to regulate power plant emissions. PBEF included state-specific results for Montana; here are a few takeaways from the data:
- A plurality of Montana voters (49%) are opposed to the EPA's proposal. That number is stronger than it might initially appear, considering that almost a third of those surveyed were not at all familiar with the EPA's proposal. So for those who have formed an opinion on the EPA rule, the reaction is overwhelmingly negative.
- Montana politicians would take a big risk in supporting the EPA regulations—43% of voters surveyed would vote against a candidate supporting the regs, and only 27% said they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting them.
- Of the top two reasons given for opposition to the rule, the first is obvious: loss of Montana jobs. Montana's economy stands to get hit hard if the EPA regs go into effect, with energy production being such an important sector of the economy and significantly higher electricity prices affecting all sectors.
The second top reason driving the opposition to the rule was a little more nuanced. Montanans are legitimately concerned about the reliability of our power grid. Potentially taking reliable energy sources out of our energy mix, in particular coal, could lead to brownouts and blackouts. That would be a secondary hit to Montana's economy—without reliable energy, industry has a tough time expanding and creating jobs.
- Finally, most voters surveyed (74%) agreed with the statement that "government should weigh all costs/benefits when creating new environmental regulations, while just 15% say the government should improve the environment at any cost."
This is one of the key points to this entire debate: we need to weight the potential costs of the EPA's regulation—potentially devastating job losses, 20% higher electricity bills for Montanans, an economic slowdown, a reduction in tax revenue from energy and a property tax shift to homeowners—against the expected benefit of the rule—a 1.5% reduction in global carbon emissions.
Right now it looks like the extreme position—the 15% who say we should implement this rule no matter the cost—are in charge and driving the process forward.