Sep 11, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Voters and natural gas: It's complicated

Data: Brunswick Group; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Voters support natural gas production but also believe the industry must operate more cleanly, a new Brunswick Group poll shows.

Driving the news: The survey shows more support for gas than other fossil fuels, but it's much less popular than renewables.

  • 46% say gas can play a key role fighting global warming only if the industry does a lot more to curb emissions.
  • 31% see gas playing a "vital role" fighting climate change while 23% view gas as "part of the climate problem" and oppose new infrastructure.

Why it matters: Gas releases far less CO2 when burned than coal, which it has for years been shoving aside in power markets.

  • But methane emissions from production and transport erode some of that edge.
  • Activists want a much faster transition to zero-carbon sources to enable steep emissions cuts.

The intrigue: The election season has high stakes for the fuel.

  • President Trump has scrapped regulations on methane emissions.
  • Biden's plan calls for emissions rules and some new drilling limits, but does not support a fracking ban.

The big picture: The polling on gas is part of a wider-ranging new Brunswick Group survey on energy and climate.

  • 53% support giving state and local governments more power to thwart oil and gas pipeline projects, but 59% say blocking pipelines will not help fight climate change.
  • 13% of voters call climate one of the two most important topics in deciding their presidential vote, which is far below the pandemic, the economy and health care.
  • Subsidizing clean energy and regulating fossil fuel production and use is more popular than taxing carbon emissions.

Methodology: The August 5–11 survey of 1,000 registered voters has a margin of error of ±3.1%.

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