Tag Archives: energy

Annual Western poll shows strong support for conservation

For the past few years, Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project has been conducting a Conservation in the West poll, and the results continually show strong support for protecting the West’s environment.

When voters in six states are asked about issues such as energy development, safety regulations, and public lands, they tend to prefer renewable technologies, keeping a close watch on business, and protecting open space for habitat and recreation. But there are some interesting regional differences, especially when it comes to energy.

We’ve created a short PowerPoint presentation, available for download at the bottom of this post, that summarizes some findings from the Conservation in the West polls. You can also view the slide deck in this embed:

Annual poll of Western voters shows strong support for conservation from EcoWest on Vimeo.

Limited sources on Western environmental public opinion

In an earlier post, we discussed the national-level results from Gallup’s polling on the environment. In some cases, Gallup has been asking the same question over and over, year after for year, for decades.

Unfortunately, we haven’t found any comparable public opinion surveys of the West that offer such a lengthy time series. Some states in the region have longstanding surveys, such as California’s Field Poll, which was established in 1947. The Public Policy Institute of California also puts out a yearly poll on the environment.

But when it comes to understanding how Westerners think about things like wildlife, carbon regulations, and the water supply, the best source we’ve found is Colorado College’s yearly polls. Here’s how The New York Times summed up the 2013 results:

Nine in ten people polled said that national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife preserves are essential to the economy. Three in four said that those lands furnish good jobs, and more than seven in 10 said that no public lands should be sold to private corporations. Three in five said that drilling should not be allowed in “critical locations” near recreation areas, water sources or wildlife. Only 35 percent said that more public lands should be opened to “responsible energy development.

In tandem with two pollsters (Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates), Colorado College conducted a survey of 2,400 voters in six Western states:  Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Environment vs. economy: false dichotomy?

Although we hear a lot about the environment versus the economy, nearly 80 percent of respondents said we can simultaneously protect land and water while maintaining a strong economy.

State of the Rockies Conservation in the West Poll Environment vs. Economy

Below are the results from a similar question, which asked respondents whether they favored “reducing protections on land, air, and water” that apply to businesses in order to help the economy and generate jobs as quickly as possible. Fewer than one-fifth of Westerners supported that proposition.

State of the Rockies Conservation in the West Poll Environment vs. Jobs

Strong support for public lands

Regardless of political affiliation, the vast majority of Westerners believe that public lands support the economy and enhance the region’s quality of life, rather than “take land off the tax rolls, cost government to maintain them, and prevent opportunities for logging and oil and gas production that could provide jobs,” as shown in graphic below.
Conservation in West poll results

Diversity in state opinion on energy

Many of the questions in the past three years of polling have related to energy. When asked which energy sources they’d like to encourage, solar and wind power come out on top and coal is at the bottom. Of the fossil fuels, Westerners favor natural gas, even rating it above energy efficiency efforts. The results are similar when people are asked about what energy sources they’d like to discourage.

Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West Poll: Interest in Renewables

Regional views on energy

As we discuss in a previous post, the nation’s energy resources, both fossil and renewable, are not evenly distributed, so it’s no surprise that there are some significant differences among state residents when it comes to their energy preferences. The graphic below shows that in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, majorities want to encourage solar, but support is lower in the other states and fell between 2012 and 2013 in Montana, Utah, and Wyoming

Colorado College State of the Rockies Poll Solar Energy

When asked about encouraging coal as an energy source, Wyoming stands out. No surprise there: it’s the largest coal-producing state in the country. There was also a large jump in support for coal from 2012 to 2013 in Wyoming, Montana, and Utah, but a decrease in support in Colorado. Perhaps the growing support for coal in some states is a backlash against increasing federal regulation of the fuel source.

Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West Poll Coal

Hopefully, the State of the Rockies project will continue to commission this poll so that we can keep tracking changes in Western public opinion in the years to come. If you find other surveys on Western environmental issues, please let us know.

Data sources

You can download data from the 2013 poll, a presentation summarizing the results, and state-level reports on this page. Results from 2011 and 2012 are also available.


Thanks to Micah Day for assistance with this post.

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

Mapping major emitters with EPA’s greenhouse gas tool

If you’re curious about the industrial operations that are emitting greenhouse gases (GHG) in your state or neighborhood, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great data tool that also provides some helpful context with its visualizations.

Data is only available for 2011, but EPA’s tool provides a wealth of information for interested citizens and environmental experts alike. The tool only reports on facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of GHGs a year, but these major emitters, such as power plants and refineries, account for more than half of the nation’s total GHG output.

The maps, which can be analyzed by state and county, show the location of GHG emitters; suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial chemicals; onshore gas production facilities; local energy distribution companies; and the handful of facilities that inject CO2 underground. The maps will tell you how many facilities are in a given location and, if you keep zooming in, you get to facility-level data. For example, in Washington you can click on facilities in Bellevue and get to Puget Sound Energy, as shown below.

EPA GHG map 1

If you click on “View reported data,” you’ll be sent to another EPA database page that provides greater detail.

Aside from just clicking through points on the map, you can search for facilities by name or location. You can also filter data by type of GHG, or by the quantity of emissions.

Where the data tool really comes to life is in the mapping of coverage areas for local energy companies. Still using Puget Sound Energy as our example, the mapped data shifts from the point source facility to the region served by the utility.

EPA GHG map 2

Below the map, EPA provides some context for the sector you are viewing, in this case petroleum and natural gas systems in the state. Washington has five such facilities that reported 702,285 metric tons of CO2-equivalent in 2011. At 665,994 metric tons, Puget Sound Energy is responsible for the vast majority of emissions associated with the state’s energy supply.

You can easily get a snapshot of statewide GHG emissions by playing with the “Data View” buttons on the top right of the GHG tool web page. In Washington, power plants and refineries account for the bulk of reported GHG emissions. Clicking on the pie chart instead of the bar chart displace the same data in more intuitive percentages.

EPA GHG map 3

To learn more about state-level GHG data, see our other posts: “Greenhouse gases: how do Western states compare?” and “Flow diagrams of U.S. and Western carbon emissions.”

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

The United States of Energy

Maps of our nation’s energy potential usually display just one source, such as the location of wind farms or the extent of natural gas fields. In an interesting new data visualization, advertising and PR firm Saxum has combined both fossil and renewable energy resources into a map of The United States of Energy.

Below are the front and back of the viz, which has so much info that it probably reads best in hard copy (click on images to enlarge).

The firm describes the project as “the first data visualization piece of its kind to comprehensively detail our nation’s vast and diverse energy portfolio. ” Here’s more from them:

What began as a simple graphic showcasing America’s energy riches quickly grew into a two-sided, folded map concept displaying thousands of individual data points. The #USofEnergy map visualizes our country’s energy potential by charting current sources of energy production and identifying future resources and known deposits. Energy resources surveyed include: natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, geothermal, solar and biomass. We compiled the data from a broad range of industry and government sources, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nuclear Research Council and American Wind Energy Association.

In some parts of the country, such as the nation’s midsection, there are so many different energy sources being exploited that the map is tough to make out. Overlapping layers present a difficulty here, but in other regions, such as the East Coast, there’s a lot of white space.

Saxum, which describes itself as “one of the leading integrated marketing communications agencies in the Great Plains,” highlights that 46 percent of U.S. energy is produced by nine states in the center of the country, as shown below.

United States of Energy Midwest
Source: Saxum

It’s worth zooming in to their legend to see what all these layers really mean. With biomass, for example, an entire county is shaded orange if it’s in the top-20 percent for producing energy in this way per square kilometer. With solar, only the best places in the country are shown. Here in Denver, for example, we’re not covered by the solar layer, but photovoltaic panels on the roof of my home/office generate the majority of electricity we consume (see this more detailed solar potential map from the U.S. Department of Energy).

Don’t ask me how, but it would be great to see an online, interactive version of Saxum’s map. That format could let you provide even greater detail on the energy sources, such as varying the size of the points used to display nuclear plants and hydroelectric dams by how much energy they produce, or by allowing users to turn layers on and off. (UPDATE: Saxum has an interactive data visualization here.)

Emily Guerin at High Country News has a good overview of the other trends that Saxum highlights in its map.

If you’re looking for maps of individual energy sources, check out our PowerPoint presentation on land use.

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.