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Trump might be surprised to learn most Americans want more wind and solar

Biden wants to transition away from the oil industry. So do a growing number of Americans.

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters while in flight after attending the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22. 
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

During Thursday night’s debate, President Donald Trump seized on Democrat Joe Biden’s comment that he wanted to transition away from the oil industry.

“Oh. There’s a big statement,” Trump said.

Biden doubled down in response. “It is a big statement,” Biden said.

Their exchange revealed a deep divide among the two parties on what America’s energy future looks like. Biden is running on a bold $2 trillion clean energy plan that aims to get the country to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Trump has been an ally to the oil, gas, and coal industry during his administration and pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement as one of his early acts as president.

But polling shows that a majority of American’s agree with Biden’s vision that the future of American energy should be renewable energy.

Energy polling from Gallup shows a growing number of Americans believe the US should put less emphasis on traditional fossil fuels like oil and coal. The same Gallup poll showed overwhelming enthusiasm for renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

The Gallup survey showed that the number of Americans who believe the US should put more emphasis on coal and oil has fallen in recent years. Just 22 percent of Americans said we need more emphasis on coal in March 2019, a dip from 31 percent who said we should put more emphasis on it in 2013.

On the other hand, 70 percent of Americans in 2019 said the country should put more emphasis on wind energy (a number largely unchanged from 2013), and 80 percent said we should put more emphasis on solar energy (a slight uptick from 76 percent in 2013). The results were more mixed on natural gas, with 46 percent of Americans saying the country should put more emphasis on that as a form of energy, a dip from the 65 percent who said so in 2013.

A 2020 Pew Research Center study showed similar numbers. When the poll asked American adults whether the nation’s priority should be oil, gas, and coal or alternative energy sources like wind and solar for the nation’s energy supply, the poll showed 79 percent preferred alternative energy compared to 20 percent who said fossil fuels.

These numbers paint a clear picture: More Americans are willing to embrace renewable energy than they are fossil fuels like coal and oil — already flagging in popularity seven years ago.

Solar production has boomed since 2010 while coal has fallen, according to Pew Research Center. But natural gas and crude oil production have also increased.

As Vox’s David Roberts has explained, the executive branch has a lot of control over US energy policy. The next president could have a very real impact on America’s energy future, as well as on charting the country’s course on climate change.

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