Californians support climate law, unsure of solution

7:59 PM, Aug 1, 2012   |    comments
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emitted from industrial smokestacks.

In the years since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put his signature on California's landmark climate change law in the fall of 2006, there's remained vigorous debate about the fine print of the law's efforts to curb greenhouse gases.

A statewide poll released Wednesday night makes clear that Californians are done with debating the law's existence.  But they are far more unsure... and even unaware... when it comes to the major regulatory action that state officials have chosen to meet the law's demands.

The poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds 62 percent of likely voters, and 71 percent of all adults, say they support AB 32 and its mandate of rolling back the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

On the likely voters, that's almost exactly the same percentage that rejected 2010's Proposition 23, an initiative to suspend the enactment of AB 32.

The PPIC survey also finds a plurality (42 percent of all adults, 38 percent of likely voters) believe that the law will be a positive for jobs in the Golden State, rejecting a key complaint of the business community.

But before AB 32 supporters start patting themselves on the back, the new poll also shows that a whopping 79 percent are essentially clueless about the main plan state regulators are crafting to implement the law: cap-and-trade.

(39 percent said they know "a little" about cap and trade, whatever "a little" might mean, while 40 percent of those surveyed said they know "nothing at all.")

And once they were given a brief description, one that seems reasonable, the likely voters polled don't seem so thrilled; 49 percent of them said they oppose cap-and-trade at that point.

(53 percent of the larger 'all adults' sample support the policy once it's described.)

To make matter worse, 67 percent of those surveyed by PPIC say they have very little or no confidence that the revenues supposedly generated by the auction of pollution credits will be "used wisely" by state government.  The state budget enacted in June assumes $1 billion in auction revenues, and Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested a portion of those dollars could be used for the state's ambitious high speed rail project.

The poll also finds a wide racial and ethnic gap when it comes to a particularly sensitive question: will companies that pay extra to pollute cause greater problems for low-income communities?  60 percent of black and 66 percent of Latino respondents think so -- a perception that could undermine the notion that the AB 32 implementation debate is simply another 'environmentalists versus business' squabble.

The full poll (here) also asks questions about alternative energy and the controversial process known as fracking.  And PPIC asks about offshore oil drilling, finding 51 percent of likely voters say they support the idea... and even a third of Democrats surveyed in supoprt.


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