Sierra Club poll shows support for Oklahoma wind energy

A poll commissioned by the environmental group found most Oklahomans would support phasing out coal-fired power plants and installing more wind capacity. But large utilities such as Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. say fuel diversity helps keep prices low.
by Paul Monies Published: September 7, 2012
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Most Oklahomans would support phasing out the state's coal-fired power plants and using more renewable resources such as wind for electricity, according to a poll commissioned by the Sierra Club.

The poll, released Thursday, also found more than 70 percent of respondents would support paying a “few dollars per month” for energy efficiency programs if it meant lower electricity bills in the future.

“By an overwhelming majority, voters in Oklahoma want their state to use more clean energy,” said Grace McRae, polling and research strategist with the Sierra Club. “Oklahomans are proud of their state's clean-energy economy, and they'd like to continue their leadership in this space.”

Oklahoma had 2,000 megawatts of wind-power capacity installed at the end of 2011, enough to power more than 500,000 homes. The state ranked eighth in wind-generation capacity, according to the Wind Technologies Market Report by the federal Energy Department.

Nearly seven out of 10 poll respondents said Oklahoma utility companies should invest more in wind power.

None of the Sierra Club polling questions mentioned natural gas as a possible replacement fuel for coal. Recent low natural gas prices have pushed several utilities across the country to switch from coal to gas for generation. Low natural gas prices can make it harder for wind to compete on fuel costs.

The Sierra Club has faulted Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. for not following the lead of the state's other large electric utility, Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, in phasing out its coal-fired plants. PSO announced earlier this year it would retire its last two coal-fired generating units at the Northeastern Station plant near Oologah in two stages: one in 2016 and the other by 2026.

The poll continued the Sierra Club's criticism of OG&E with a question about how the utility should address pending regulations on emissions. When asked if OG&E should install pollution-control equipment or phase out its coal plants, 45 percent of those polled said the utility should retire the coal plants. Another 34 percent opted for pollution-control equipment, while 21 percent weren't sure.

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by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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About the recent poll

The Sierra Club poll surveyed 500 registered Oklahoma voters on Aug. 25-27. It had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points and was done by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C.

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