New Mexicans prefer an energy future that both increases the number of energy jobs and diversifies energy sources – according to a recent survey conducted by economic researchers at the University of New Mexico.

A majority of respondents answered that they were willing to pay more for energy that increases jobs, and 73 percent of respondents also support the addition of more renewable energy in the state. In addition, the survey found people living in counties with heavy fossil fuel extraction are willing to support energy policy that increases reliance on renewable energy, but also increases jobs.

The research team was led by Janie Chermak and Jennifer Thacher of UNM’s Department of Economics, assisted by Ph.D. student Kara Walter. The study was supported by the National Science Foundation–funded New Mexico Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCoR) and sampled 1,900 New Mexico residents across the state. It included questions about preferences regarding energy sources, such as renewable sources and extraction methods, as well as environmental and economic concerns.

“One of the facts that needs to be emphasized is that there is a diversity of opinion and preferences about energy types when respondents were asked about a single energy source,” Chermak noted. “However, when asked to make tradeoffs in the choice experiment, there is less heterogeneity of response and some factors that are often attributed to heterogeneity (e.g., political leaning or even location) that are not statistically relevant.”

Other findings include: support for renewable energy was not necessarily dependent on political affiliation; a majority of respondents support natural gas extraction for electricity production; and respondents were more supportive of increasing coal efficiency than decreasing reliance on coal. Human-driven climate change was also acknowledged by over 70 percent of respondents.

This research suggests public support for a New Mexico energy policy will require a plan that pursues a diversity of energy sources and emphasizes economic impact, particularly the potential of different energy sources to increase jobs. The findings are under review for publication in the journal “Energy Policy”.

New Mexico EPSCoR is funded by the National Science Foundation (Award #IIA-1301346) to build the state’s capacity to conduct scientific research. The infrastructure and activities are designed to support shared-use equipment, engage new research and community college faculty and support the STEM pipeline by training teachers, undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

Visit the New Mexico EPSCoR website to learn more.