Poll: Consumers concerned about greenhouse gases

A survey commissioned by a business coalition shows that California voters favor the goals of the state's law to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but that consumers fear the brunt of the costs associated with the new law.

The survey of 1,000 people conducted Aug. 3-10 also shows support for a market-based strategy conducted in coordination with other western states, as proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a number of business groups. The market structure is generally supported by the AB 32 Implementation Group, the business coalition that commissioned the poll, although the details of the market have yet to be worked out.

The survey of a random sample of California voters was conducted by EMC Research of Oakland with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points.

EMC said the goal of the survey was to "measure current attitudes toward California Assembly Bill 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, and to gauge how both positive and negative arguments affect voter support for the bill."

AB 32 by former Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, was signed into law by Schwarzenegger in 2006. The bill, which has a wide sweep and has gained national attention, requires California's production of climate-changing carbon emissions, or greenhouse gases, to be reduced to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

Experts say about 60 percent of those reductions will be realized through other laws. The remaining roughly 40 percent will be directly affected by AB 32. The state Air Resources Board currently is drawing up regulations to determine how AB 32 will be put into effect beginning Jan. 1. Among the thorniest issues is the proposal to create a cap-and-trade market system that would include so-called offsets. Those allow the trading and selling of pollution credits, or allowances, that would enable polluters to continue to operate in return for making environmentally "green" investments elsewhere.

Businesses generally support offsets, environmentalists often oppose them. The debate over the issue continues as the ARB prepares to issue its decision, which is expected this fall.

The key findings of the EMC survey:–Nearly three-fourths, or 72 percent, of California voters are pessimistic, and there is a high level of distrust in government in general.

–Issues related to the economy are voters' top-of-mind concerns. Some 64 percent said fixing the state budget should be the state's highest priority, and over half, 56 percent, said the same about improving the economy and creating jobs.

–Voters are largely unaware of AB 32, but they initially support its goals. Support for the bill significantly decreases as voters are given more information, particularly about the costs of implementing the bill.

–Most voters say they, as consumers, will bear most of the costs associated with implementing AB 32.

–Voters are supportive of a more market-based approach that is coordinated with other Western states and a national climate change program. Two-thirds, 67 percent, of voters said they would be more likely to support AB 32 if its aims were accomplished by a plan that relied more on market-based programs, such as incentives to reduce emissions, rather than on regulations.

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