Support for U.S. climate regulation growing: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A growing number of Americans want the United States to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as the largest oil spill in U.S. history helps boost interest in petroleum alternatives, a poll by two universities found on Tuesday.

About 77 percent of 1,204 Americans polled support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, up 6 percentage points from January, according to the poll by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities.

The oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 rig workers and has plagued fishing and coastal tourism from Texas to Florida was a factor, researchers said.

“The BP oil disaster is also reminding the public of the dark side of dependence on fossil fuels, which may be increasing support for clean energy policies,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

The poll contradicted other recent surveys that showed public interest in climate change was falling.

It comes a few days before the Senate will vote on a move to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. The outcome of the vote could have a bearing on how the Senate deals with long-delayed climate change legislation.

In March, a Gallup Poll showed a growing number of Americans, nearly half the country, thought global warming worries were exaggerated. In December, a global poll by the Neilsen Institute showed a global average of 37 percent of people were “very concerned” with climate change, down from 41 percent in 2007.

The Yale and George Mason poll showed support for expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast fell to 62 percent, down 5 percentage points from January.

It also found 61 percent of Americans supported requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 per year, up 2 points from January.

The poll was conducted from May 14 to June 1 by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel of American adults. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman