Aug 10, 2022 - Politics

Massachusetts voters see a clean energy future

Illustration of a gas sign where the numbers are replaced with wind turbines.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Massachusetts voters can see a future without so much reliance on fossil fuels, a Barr Foundation poll out today indicates.

By the numbers: 68% of registered voters in the survey said they believe a transition to clean energy is realistic — up 10 points from a similar poll conducted in 2020.

  • 60% of Republicans said they believe climate change is a problem, with 28% of them calling it very serious, per the poll, which was conducted by the Global Strategy Group on behalf of the foundation.

The big picture: While Republican leaders in other states deny climate change is real, the biggest disagreements between Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic lawmakers are how to wean off of fossil fuels, and what counts as clean renewable energy.

  • Massachusetts has committed to reducing its carbon emissions levels by 100% of 1990 levels by 2050, and has set targets for 2025, 2030 and 2040.

Why it matters: The findings suggest a majority of residents are interested in seeing more renewable energy options to power their homes, cars, school buses and office buildings.

The survey drew a distinction between natural gas and other forms of energy.

  • 69% of voters do not consider gas a form of clean energy.
  • Voters said they wanted to see more solar- and wind-based electricity options.
  • A slight majority (53%) considered renewable energy more reliable or as reliable as natural gas.

Yes, but: A plurality of voters saw clean, renewable energy as more expensive, and many residents still rely on gas-chugging cars and natural-gas-fueled home cooling systems.

Worth noting: 600 registered voters participated in the survey, which was conducted May 12-15. It has a 4% margin of error.

Context: The poll comes as a climate bill awaits the governor's signature.

  • The latest proposal, sent to his desk Aug. 1, aims to bolster the offshore wind, solar and other industries in the clean energy sector.
  • Baker has until Wednesday to sign or veto the bill.

The other side: Asked about the state's path to reaching its carbon emissions targets, National Grid spokesperson Christine Milligan told Axios in a statement that decarbonized gas "has a place as part of a mosaic of clean energy solutions" that could chart the state’s path toward its emissions targets.

  • Milligan said National Grid plans to invest in infrastructure to deliver "fossil-free gas" and eventually incorporate a blend of hydrogen and renewable natural gas.

The bottom line: Attitudes about clean, renewable energy are changing with the times.


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