Wind power and natural gas top the list of power sources that Wyoming residents say could be used more.
A recent State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll by Colorado College says Westerners want the use of renewable energy to be encouraged in Wyoming, rather than traditional fossil fuels. Even with an extra option for nuclear energy included in this year’s survey, those voting are quite consistent in their desire to see more emphasis placed on solar and wind production.
Wyoming residents are more mixed in their views than people in other states. Those polled nationwide in other states preferred that the top two energy sources be renewable:
Arizona: The most preferred source of energy is solar power
Colorado: Those polled prefer both wind and solar power
Montana and Utah: Residents prefer wind power
New Mexico: Residents prefer solar power
The poll was conducted from Jan. 5-10 via landline phone calls and cellphones. The respondents had an opportunity to participate in either Spanish or English. The results are based on responses from 2,400 registered voters in Colorado, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. This is the third year Colorado College has conducted the bipartisan survey with Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Conservation and energy
This year, two things stand out, said Walt Hecox, professor of economics at Colorado College and director of the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project:
Conservation: Despite the challenges that the Western population has faced for the past four years, such as slow economic recovery, drought in the Southwest, wildfires, the impact of unrest abroad on supplies of foreign oil, voters in the West are nevertheless concerned about conservation. The poll showed that 56 percent of voters in the six states say that environmentally sensitive public land should be permanently protected from energy development.
“What astounds me is the near unanimous 91 percent agreement across those polled that public lands are an essential part of each state’s economy,” Hecox said.
Energy: Despite all the economic stress in the region, people call for a balanced approach to energy development, Hecox said.
Westerners don’t reject completely an all of the above approach but they have a high preference for renewables, the poll showed.
“So, in the face of “drill, baby, drill” and “dig it,” I think the region is holding on to very core values which have been sustaining themselves in the face of a lot of challenges,” Hecox said.
Other themes that stand out from the poll include:
Protection for sensitive land: About three quarters of the Western electorate say that they want to see some limitation on drilling as a way to protect environmentally sensitive lands or a broader set of limitations across the board. The greatest support for making public lands generally open to oil and gas drilling is among republican voters.
“But even among Republicans there is only one quarter that take that position, with most supporting the idea that there should be some limitation,” said Dave Metz, pollster.
Stronger protection: Almost 2 to 1 margin of voters say there is a need for strong standards to protect public lands rather than open them to more drilling. That sentiment cuts across each of the six states within the electorate with some variations from state to state.
Oil dependency: Dependency on foreign oil is the context for a lot of debate about energy issues in the West, Metz said.
The poll showed that 89 percent of voters view it as a serious problem; 62 percent of voters view it as either an extremely or very serious problem.
However, the concern seems to have been losing its intensity over the past year. The proportion of western voters who view it as an extremely or very serious problem has declined by 12 percent since 2012.
Various factors could explain that, Metz said.
Most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that U.S. exports of crude oil have been declining in the past five-six years:
At the same time, U.S. crude oil production has grown from 156.2 million barrels in August 2006 to 194.2 million barrels in August. It was 206.7 million barrels in November.
Wyoming at a glance
73% of voters say they are conservationists
69% of voters plan to visit a national park this year
77% of voters say the fact that children are not spending enough time outdoors is a serious problem
66% say inadequate water supplies are a serious problem
40% say they are not sure what position their representative has taken on protecting land, air and water in the state
94% agree that public lands are an essential part of the state’s economy