There is certainly a lot of discussion in the state about energy. For example, Utah is seeing historic installation rates of residential rooftop solar arrays, and the Utah Legislature is considering whether to end state solar tax credits early. Additionally, Rocky Mountain Power has a new solar array coming on line from which consumers can purchase blocks of renewable energy.
However, the energy topic in the Utah Priorities Survey goes beyond electricity generation to include utility and gasoline prices. When asked to rank their level of concern about “energy issues, including utilities and gasoline prices,” 68% of Utah voters ranked their concern as a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale. While more than two-thirds of voters expressed concern, it was only 13th on the list of 2016 priorities. Looking over the history of the Utah Priorities Project, it appears that voters’ current level of concern is related to the price of gasoline over the previous period.
Energy was the number one Utah Priorities Project concern in 2008, which followed the most dramatic increase in gasoline prices since 1980. In 2010, prices had lowered somewhat and stabilized, letting Utah voters worry a little less. As voters acclimatized to the idea of higher long-term gasoline prices, the concern about energy dropped to seventh in 2012. Since the end of 2014 represented the largest drop in gasoline prices in 30 years, it is understandable why energy is no longer quite the concern it once was.
The topic of energy blends into a number of other topics. When thinking about the environment, 37% of a smaller focus group were most concerned about clean energy sources. When thinking about public lands and states’ rights, many Utah voters are also concerned about how those issues relate to energy development on federally owned lands. Energy is also related to clean air, as a portion of the pollution during inversions can be attributed to homes using natural gas for. While energy itself was a lower priority this year, it certainly has ties to many other priorities that were of higher concern to voters.