Small business owners support Obama’s clean energy and environmental policies, poll shows

The Washington Post
June 27, 2013

Most small business owners support some of the climate control and clean energy plans outlined this week by the Obama administration, according to a poll released Thursday.

More than three-fourths (79 percent) of small employers think the the government should set a national goal to increase energy efficiency by half over the next decade, and nearly twice as many believe government incentives for clean energy innovation should be a high or top priority than believe they should be a low or non-priority.

The results are part of a report released by the American Sustainable Business Council, a business advocacy and research organization. David Levine, the group’s chief executive, noted that most of the responses did not vary based on respondents’ political persuasions.

“Small business owners across the country and across the political spectrum believe that clean energy makes sense not only for the environment, but it makes good business sense, too,” Levine said in an interview. “There’s a recognition that these clean energy policies really are better for their financial bottom lines.”

During a speech in Washington on Tuesday, Obama announced several ambitious proposalsaimed at reversing recent climate changes and making the country more self-sufficient. Most notably, he ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to limit carbon dioxide emissions for coal- and gas-powered utilities by 2015.

“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing,” Obama told students during the event at Georgetown University.

Small business ownerssupport that objective, too. Nearly two-thirds think the EPA should cap emissions in existing power plants, including 86 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans.

More than half of employers believe the government should also encourage banks to consider environmental criteria when evaluating loan applications and investment opportunities, according to the poll, which was based on 515 responses from employers with fewer than 100 employees. Sixty-three percent support a government mandate that would require 20 percent of electricity to be generated from sustainable energy sources.

It’s a slightly surprising stance from a group that is often considered purely anti-regulations and anti-government involvement, but one small business owner noted that these rules would mainly affect large energy and electricity producers, not firms on Main Street.

Susan Labandibar, president of Tech Networks of Boston in South Boston, Mass., added that devastation from recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Sandy and the twisters in the Midwest, has probably prompted some small employers to take climate shifts more seriously.

“Small businesses are uniquely vulnerable to severe weather events, and there has been a huge amount of disruption from some of these storms,” Labandibar said, noting that her own firm was hit hard by Sandy.

Meanwhile, Levine says the overarching “businesses-hate-regulations” notion has been fueled by policy discussions that have more to do with political sparring than reviving the economy.

“This shows that, when you ask some of these questions outside of the political arena, you get a different take than what you hear in Congress,” he said. “We need to change the dialogue in Washington, and get away from party-line rhetoric and talk more about what’s actually good for business and what’s actually good for the economy.”

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