A nonprofit energy research group is pushing back against a Washington Post report claiming that a "huge majority" of Americans support the White House's efforts to reduce carbon emissions from energy plants.
This claim "runs counter to every single survey that I have read or focus group that I have observed over the past two years," Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle wrote in a post addressing the issue.
The report is based on a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted from May 29 to June 1 and pulled from a sample of 1,002 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Pyle's sharpest criticism goes to the wording of the survey’s questions.
Here's an example of one of the energy-related questions asked of survey respondents: "Do you think the federal government should or should not require states to limit the amount of greenhouse gases produced within their borders in an effort to reduce global warming?"
Pyle's response: "Of course the real problem is that ultimately the requirements of the rule will not fall on the states. Rather, they will fall on the companies and individuals within the states and ultimately the ratepayers themselves will pay the bill. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance of the program knows that; it is surprising that the people who drafted the questionnaire do not."
And then there's this from the Washington Post: "What if that (the proposed rule) significantly lowered greenhouse gas emissions but raised your monthly energy expenses by $20 a month [would you still support it]?"
The word "significantly" is a bit of a problem here, according to Pyle.
"Even if the rule as proposed is fully and completely adhered to, it might reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 10 percent," he wrote. “Given that the United States now emits about 15 percent of the world’s total, it is possible (in the best case scenario) that the rule might reduce global greenhouse emissions by 1.5 percent by 2030. I'm not sure what percentage constitutes 'significantly' for most people, but I doubt 1.5 percent (or even 10 percent) counts as 'significantly.'"
And this is the most important part of his criticism: The survey's questions regarding energy standards do raise some issues regarding its findings on the president's new carbon emissions standards.
The uneven and ambiguous wording of the questions, as Pyle correctly notes, could cause inaccuracies in the survey's final findings. So keep that in mind next time the Washington Post claims that a "huge majority of Americans" are on board with the president's strict new regulations.