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50% of Americans don’t want to spend *even one more dollar* on renewables

Who wants to pay more for electricity?

All around the world conservative politicians are afraid to campaign against the cost of renewables. So here comes yet another survey showing a huge voter group sits there unrecognized, invisible, waiting for someone to vote for.

The news from the Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University:

Who is willing to pay more for renewable energy?

In two recent national surveys of American adults, we asked how much more per month, if anything, people would be willing to pay to get their electricity from 100% renewable sources. Nearly half of Americans (47%) reported that they were willing to pay more, while 50% said $0.

It’s a devastating result. Think about the fantasy they were being asked to put a price on — on offer was the mythical golden goose of  “100% renewable energy”. It doesn’t exist (unless you count hydroelectricity). Even so, what was that fantastical creature worth? For half of Americans — nothing.

Instead, the Centre for Climate Communication could have put a more realistic price on “100% renewable purity”, and asked how many Americans were willing to pay that exorbitant sum — it might be 1%. Might be less. (Can’t think why the Centre for Climate Change Communications didn’t want to find that out…)

They were expecting so much more:

In our December 2018 Energy in the American Mind report, we found that a bipartisan majority (85%) of American registered voters support requiring electric utilities to transition to renewable energy, even though only 38% think that wind and solar cost less than electricity from coal. This suggests that many Americans may be willing to pay more to get their electricity from renewable sources.

The inconsistencies layer like a supersize lasagne. 63% of Americans know wind and solar costs more than coal. Fully 85%  say they want “climate action”  — they want  to make it law, they know it will cost, and they want someone else to pay for it.

The payment paradox is the same all around the world. People know what they are supposed to say, that renewables are like apple-pie and motherhood and good, good, good. But hardly anyone wants to fork over the cash. But ultimately, if the government legislates  a more expensive energy source, someone has to foot the bill. There are two ways to reconcile the divergent figures: one, that bullying keeps people from admitting that they don’t believe to random pollsters that call in the night; or two, that western education has duped the masses into thinking that the government or companies have some magical pot of money that can cover the cost.

Who wants to pay —  The young and easily led  (Liberal Democrats)

The old, wise and careful are much less willing to pay for weather-changing sorcery.

How telling that the prime deciding factor for “paying up” is politics, not income. (Black-symbols, right, versus green symbols, left).

Climate polling, renewable cost, USA, 2019. Willing to pay?


The other predictors are age and education. And given the dime-a-dozen nature of modern degrees, education is partly a proxy for age anyway — there just aren’t that many post-docs in their eighties.

My hypothesis — that climate payments are a meaningless fashion statement — holds up well against the data. Fashion always counts most in youth, and in the inner city, university, left wing arty sector. Everyone wants to be seen to pay, but no one cares if the money really gets there.

Even those willing to pay are not willing to pay much:

The half that were willing to pay for the Golden Climate Goose were offering figures like $1 – $30 per month which is only $12 – $400 annually.

 Overall and on average, Americans are willing to pay an additional $16.25 per month for renewable energy. About one in six (17%) say they would pay between $1 and $10 more, while 15% are willing to pay between $11 and $30, and 14% are willing to pay between $31 and $200 more. Among those who are willing to pay at least some amount more per month, the average is $33.72 per month.

Note the misleading average in the first sentence? The average American is absolutely not willing to pay $16 per month extra. Given that 50% want to pay nothing more, and 17% want to pay $1 – $10 per month, that means 67% of Americans are offering to fork out a lot less than ten dollars.

Cling to that fantasy

The Climate Centre says none of this matters anyhow because their own disappointing study is irrelevant:

It is important to note that public willingness to pay more for renewable energy is likely to become less relevant in coming years, because the costs of generating electricity from renewable energy sources have been rapidly declining . Increasingly, Americans will not have to decide if they are willing to pay more for renewable energy. Rather, they will likely be able to pay less for renewable energy. Because nearly half of Americans are already willing to pay more for renewable energy, we expect that consumer demand and positive sentiments will increase as renewable energy prices fall.

If renewables are so competitive why do we need government funded Climate Centres to ask how much extra the punters will pay?

It takes a large team to sell those white elephants.


 Gustafson, A., Goldberg, M., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2019). Who is willing to pay more for renewable energy? Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

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