Get ready, Republicans: The Tea Party has an energy angle

2011-09-12T13:57:00Z 2011-09-12T14:08:16Z Get ready, Republicans: The Tea Party has an energy angleBy Jeremy Fugleberg, Star-Tribune energy reporter Casper Star-Tribune Online

It's conventional wisdom that Republicans and Democrats broadly differ in their opinions on renewable energy and climate change policy.

But a recently released study shows that members of the Republican Party's Tea Party faction differs from their more mainstream comrades on energy and environmental issues. This is something to watch as different factions of the Republican Party work to shape the party platform for the 2012 elections.

The Tea Party is not a big fan of policies that require electricity utilities to get some of their electricity from renewable sources, such as solar or wind, according to the study conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason University.

Those renewable energy quotas are largely driving the wind energy development in the state of Wyoming, as producers work to harness our world-class wind and ship it to utilities in states with such requirements.

Republicans joined Democrats and Independents in supporting a requirement for utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year. A majority of Tea Party members opposed that policy, with 39 percent strongly opposing it.

Wyoming's uranium industry is on the rebound, with several large projects nearing completion and others in various stages of development. The state's uranium will provide fuel to existing U.S. reactors and those under development.

The Tea Party appears to be a relatively big supporter of domestic nuclear energy. Tea Party members support more nuclear plants and would even support construction of the facilities in their local area. Republicans would support more nuclear plants but not want one in their backyard.

On global warming, the difference between the Tea Party and the larger Republican party is fairly stark.

The Tea Party members strongly oppose an international treaty to cut carbon dioxide emissions, while a majority of Republicans (and Democrats and Independents) support such a plan.

Unlike Republicans, Tea Party members don't believe global warming is taking place, and they are more likely than Republicans to say they're very well informed and don't need more information about global warming.

All members of the political spectrum support funding more research into renewable energy sources and giving tax rebates to people who purchase energy efficient vehicles and solar panels.

The study was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

It was funded by three environmental groups: the Surdna Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. The study's funders could set off some alarm bells, but the study's methodology seems quite sound.

The Republican Party will have some interesting days ahead as it hammers out its positions on energy and environmental policy.

Keep an eye on this. Those policies will deeply impact Wyoming, particularly if a Republican challenger replaces Barack Obama in the White House.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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