American Climate Perspectives: A Price on Carbon Pollution? Who Gets The Money?

In our latest survey, 60% of Americans said they would support a price on carbon pollution. 66% want that money to go towards development of clean energy sources.

carbon pollutionIf you believe that climate change is a big problem, as a clear majority of Americans do, how do you solve it? There are many ways to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change and other environmental and human health problems. The simplest solution is to make the polluters pay, giving them incentive to reduce pollution. But then what do you do with the money?

ecoAmerica found broad support for all six of the most popular climate change solutions, with 60% of Americans saying they would support a price on carbon pollution, followed closely by modernizing America’s electric grid, which 57% would support.

Some interesting differences crop up when you delve into politics and age groups. Democrats are more supportive of all solutions, with making polluters pay the highest ranked. Republicans and Independents want to modernize America’s electric grid. All age groups prefer these two solutions, with the exception of young adults who want laws for more efficient cars and buildings.

There’s a lot of debate among policy experts about what to do with the money collected from a carbon pollution fee. Various proponents argue that America should support clean energy; reduce the federal debt; give the money back to people or corporations; or improve health and education. When you ask Americans, they overwhelmingly prefer using a climate pollution fee to fund development of clean energy sources.

Bob Perkowitz, President of ecoAmerica, has developed a “Price and Block Grant” proposal that would grant 75% of the trillion dollars or more that would be raised by a carbon fee to the states. It provides wide latitude on how both the states and federal government could use the funds – making all these options possible.

Support for funding renewable energy with revenue from a carbon pollution fee has grown dramatically – a 10-point increase from 56% in 2016 to 66% in 2017. It’s the first choice of Republicans and Democrats alike.

After clean energy, Republicans and Democrats differ:

The second choice for Republicans is to reduce the federal debt, while Democrats and Independents want to improve education and health services in America – which more than half (53%) of 18-29 year olds support.

ecoAmerica designed and fielded this survey. It was conducted online from March 31-April 3, 2017 using Survey Monkey. The nationally representative sample of 801 adults was drawn from an online panel and respondents were screened to be over the age of 18 residing in the United States. The margin of error for the sample is +/-3.5%. In interpreting survey results, all sample surveys are subject to possible sampling error; that is, the results of a survey may differ from those, which would be obtained if the entire population were interviewed. The size of the sampling error depends upon both the total number of respondents in the survey and the percentage distribution of responses to a particular question. For example, if 50% of respondents in a sample of 900 respondents answered, “Yes” to a particular question, we can be 95% confident that the true percentage will fall within 3.5 points, or from 46.5% to 53.5%.

Suggested Citation
Speiser, M., and Fery, P. (2017). ecoAmerica American Climate Perspectives: April 2017. ecoAmerica. Washington, D.C.

For more information contact Meighen Speiser, ecoAmerica Chief Engagement Officer at


  1. If corporations have to pay a carbon fee, won’t they pass the costs on to the consumers? If so, then how will the consumers pay the higher prices without getting all or a substantial portion of the fees returned to them?

  2. Yes Neil, they will pass the fee along to government, business, and consumer customers – that’s the whole point, to raise the cost of carbon. A $25/ton price is about 20 cents/gallon – and with gasoline fluctuating from $2-$4/gallon over the past couple of years, people have demonstrated that they can and will pay much more than this smaller cost increase. But that said, almost all the carbon fee proposals have provisions to lower taxes or otherwise provide money back to lower income, if not all consumers, so the vast majority of Americans could come out well ahead in cleaner/healther aire and water, and in their pocketbooks.

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