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Does the free market or government regulation drive more use of renewables?

Wind turbine
Tim Wang
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Wind turbine.

A new survey finds a majority of Americans (54%) lean toward regulations as the best way to increase our use of renewable energy versus relying on economic markets alone.

Cary Funk is the associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. She says a majority of Americans say that increasing the use of renewable energy sources should be a top priority for the country’s energy policies.

“But there’s a closer divide on whether or not government regulations are necessary or whether the private marketplace can ensure that businesses and consumers increase more reliance on renewables even without regulations,” she says.

Unsurprisingly, that divide is largely based on political affiliation.

“So what we see is a strong partisan divide with 65% of Democrats saying that government regulations are needed in order to have people rely more on renewable energy resources and 55% of Republicans say otherwise: that the private marketplace can do this even without regulations,” says Funk.

The question of whether it’s possible to cut back on environmental regulations and still protect air and water quality also drew a sharp divide among Americans. Funk says 49% think that it is possible, while 47% disagree and say regulations are necessary to maintaining environmental quality.

Funk says that although there are closely partisan divides when it comes to the environment, there are some things that Americans tend to agree on.

“We see much closer agreement on things like whether creating jobs within the energy sector should be a top priority. About half of Republicans and half of Democrats say that should be a top priority,” she says.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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