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Sustainability Is Bipartisan—Until It Comes to Oil, Survey Finds

September 24, 2019, 1:00 PM UTC

The current White House has made every effort to rollback Obama-era environmental protections and rebuff calls to action around climate change, but such moves may not be the will of the administration’s entire Republican base.

A new survey—conducted by Genomatica, an environmentally conscious bioengineering firm—found sustainability is valued on both sides of the aisle, with 70% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats saying sustainability is important. Just more than 60% of Republicans also said burning fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change, a belief held by 93% of Democrats.

When it came to addressing the use of such fuels in everyday life, however, the divide between the parties widened. Nearly half of Republicans (48%) denied using crude oil to make products is a major contributor to climate change, compared to 22% of Democrats who held this belief.

Part of living sustainably—aside from the usual calls for less energy waste and more public transportation—is being a conscious consumer. Many people, however, don’t know that the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic humans have produced over the years are sourced partially from the distillation of crude oil, a process that can release harmful pollutants into the air and water.

Genomatica’s survey found 34% of the U.S. adults surveyed this summer didn’t know that plastic bags are made from crude oil-based ingredients. More than 40% didn’t realize such ingredients are in face moisturizer, too.

Despite both parties strongly supporting sustainability, the study found Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be bothered by oil-based ingredients in their products. Democrats were also more than twice as likely as Republicans to say it’s extremely important for the U.S. to reduce its oil consumption (41% versus 20%).

Democrats, however, are no more likely to have reduced their oil consumption over the past year, a point likely related to the fact 42% say the responsibility to reduce consumption lies with the government. Just 26% of Republicans held this stance.

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