Alms for the environment?

Would Bay Area residents, already saddled with the highest gas prices in the country, be willing to pay a 25-cent fee on a gallon of gas if the money were spent to reduce the effects of global warming? According to a new poll, the answer is an unresounding “yes.”

Preliminary findings indicate that Bay Area residents were “mostly willing to pay 25 cents more” for a gallon of gas “if it would be used to limit or reduce global warming,” according to a recent telephone poll commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The same residents opposed a fee of 50 cents or one dollar for the same cause, according to the poll.

MTC spokesman John Goodwin said the poll’s purpose was to “gauge public attitudes” as the agency moves forward with its next 25-year regional transportation plan. The plan would detail future strategies throughout the nine-county Bay Area region for maintaining and improving transportation in the region.

BW Research Partnership Inc. conducted the poll over three weeks beginning in mid-September, and interviewed 1,800 residents in the Bay Area.

The residents also indicated they would want the additional revenue from such an increase to go toward providing more transit services and research into alternative fuels and cleaner engines, according to the memo. The final results of the poll will be released at the Thursday meeting of MTC’s planning committee.

Since the late 1990s, the MTC has been authorized to place up to a10-cent regional gas tax on the ballot for voters, which would require a two-thirds majority vote for passage, Goodwin said.

There is “no specific proposal” for such a tax currently, said Goodwin, adding that the poll was more about “exploring attitudes rather than probing a potential ballot measure.”

“This poll question goes into a whole new territory in asking about climate change,” Goodwin said.

According to reports, the most recent survey of gas prices across the country — released Nov. 4 — indicated San Francisco had the most expensive gas in the U.S. at $3.28 per gallon.

Sean Comey, a spokesman for AAA, said gas prices have been going steadily up since the beginning of September, when gas in The City cost on average $2.98. Currently the average cost of a gallon of gas in The City is $3.39, according to AAA data.

dsmith@examiner.com

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