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Carbon Management: Changing Attitudes and an Opportunity for Action

Between October 15 and 22, 2020, the Hobby School of Public Affairs and UH Energy conducted a survey of 1,500 respondents to assess public opinion towards climate change, support for policies aimed at curbing carbon emissions, and the public’s willingness to pay for decarbonized electricity, gas, and fuel.

We find that reducing the human carbon footprint is a salient concern among respondents in the US, as well as in Texas, the center of energy production in the country. That concern translates to expectations of policy changes and environmental stewardship practices by the government, firms, and consumers. The survey also revealed that there has been a significant shift in public opinion in Texas, with respondents expressing views similar to the rest of the country.

While there is broad-based support for reducing emissions and concern about climate change, our survey shows that respondents had overall little knowledge of climate policies and mitigation efforts, such as cap and trade or a carbon tax. Read the full report to learn more.

Highlights

  • About 80% of Americans and almost 81% of Texans say they believe climate change is happening and almost two-thirds of respondents are either very or somewhat worried about climate change. Among those who believe in climate change, 75% believe that it is caused mostly by human activities.
  • About two-thirds say oil and gas companies should adopt carbon management technologies. More than 50% of respondents believe that the government should promote, incentivize, and subsidize carbon management technologies.
  • By far, the largest share of respondents (43%) believe that if the government were to implement a tax on carbon emissions, it should use the revenue to fund and support research for energy and the environment.
  • 64% of people nationally, and 61% of Texans, say hydraulic fracturing has a negative effect on the environment.
  • Almost two-fifths of respondents either strongly or somewhat support the expansion of natural gas pipelines; 35% neither supported nor opposed it.
  • Mitigation strategies aren’t well understood. 61% have heard of carbon taxes, while less than half are familiar with carbon management and just 33% have heard of carbon pricing. Younger people and those with more education had higher levels of awareness.
  • More than 70% of respondents said that the governments of developed countries as well as the oil and gas industry were either very or somewhat responsible for climate change; however, attributing responsibility to various entities increased with respondents’ issue knowledge.
  • Over 90% of respondents said they would be willing to pay a non-zero amount on carbon-neutral fuel; 82% were willing to pay $1 to $5 more. Only about a quarter of respondents were willing to pay $1-10 more per month on their electricity bill for 100% renewable energy. However, Texans are willing to give up a higher amount for renewable energy compared to respondents from other states.
  • Over 30% of respondents reported they are willing to pay between $1 and $10 more per month for natural gas-based electricity produced without methane flaring or venting and 35% are willing to pay between $11 and $50 more.
  • Although one-third of respondents said they were not interested in buying natural gas-based electricity produced without flaring or venting for their homes, a quarter of respondents said they could certainly afford to pay this increase and over 20% believed that the increase offers good value. 30% of Texans said they could certainly afford a $5 increase on their monthly electricity bill and another 30% said it offered good value.
  • Nearly 70% of respondents were willing to pay more than $10 more per month on their electricity bill if the US were to set a price of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide. When it comes to carbon-neutral fuel, however, consumers were much less willing (and able?) to pay more. 27% said that a $1.70 increase per gallon would be too expensive for them and 30% said they were uninterested in buying a carbon-neutral fuel. Less than 10% believed the increase represented a good value for carbon-neutral fuel.

Figures

You may have heard that the world's temperature has been changing over the past 100 years, a phenomenon referred to as climate change. What is your personal opinion regarding whether or not this phenomenon is happening?

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Belief in climate change harm to self and future generations

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Agree or disagree: oil and gas companies should adopt carbon management technologies

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Agree or disagree: government should promote, incentivize, and subsidize carbon management technologies

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Report

Media release