Public Preferences in a Shifting Energy Future: Comparing Public Views of Eight Energy Sources in North America's Pacific Northwest

The U.S. and Canada continue to face major changes in energy production. Mounting awareness of the climate crisis has placed increasing importance on developing renewable energy sources, however, advances in fossil fuel extraction technology have opened vast domestic reserves of oil and natural gas. Public preferences for energy policy play a role in determining energy futures, but researchers rarely simultaneously compare public views across multiple renewable and non-renewable energies or across country boundaries. Researchers used a 2019 online survey sample to compare predictors of support for eight fuel sources for electricity generation in British Columbia, Canada, and Washington and Oregon, USA. Results indicate the highest support overall for renewables (wind, solar, wave/tidal energy, geothermal) and the lowest for fossil fuels (coal and natural gas), nuclear, and hydropower. Mixed-effects regression modeling indicates that views on climate and the balance between environment and economy were consistent predictors of support across most energy types, while political ideology was less consistent. The perceived local importance of both extractive and renewable energy industries were significant predictors of support for some, but not all, energy sources, as were education and gender. Overall, the research suggests that while divisions persist in public energy preferences for both renewable and non-renewable sources, there is the broadest support for renewable energy technologies.

Shawn Olson Hazboun and Hilary Schaffer Boudet
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Energies, 13(8): Article 1940, April 15, 2020
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21 pages