Starlee Sykes, Archaea Energy’s CEO, shares the details of bp’s acquisition of the company and their vision for the future. Image via bp.com

bp’s Archaea Energy is the largest renewable natural gas (RNG) producer in the U.S., with an industry leading RNG platform and expertise in developing, constructing and operating RNG facilities to capture waste emissions and convert them into low carbon fuel.

Archaea partners with landfill owners, farmers and other facilities to help them transform their feedstock sources into RNG and convert these facilities into renewable energy centers.

Starlee Sykes, Archaea Energy’s CEO, shared more about bp’s acquisition of the company and their vision for the future.

HETI: bp completed its acquisition of Archaea in December 2022. What is the significance of this acquisition for bp, and how does it bolster Archaea’s mission to create sustainability and stability for future generations?  

Starlee Sykes: The acquisition was an important move to accelerate and grow our plans for bp’s bioenergy transition growth engine, one of five strategic transition growth engines. Archaea will not only play a pivotal role in bp’s transition and ambition to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner but is a key part of bp’s plan to increase biogas supply volumes.

HETI: Tell us more about how renewable natural gas is used and why it’s an important component of the energy transition?  

SS: Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a type of biogas generated by decomposing organic material at landfill sites, anaerobic digesters and other waste facilities – and demand for it is growing. Our facilities convert waste emissions into renewable natural gas. RNG is a lower carbon fuel, which according to the EPA can help reduce emissions, improve local air quality, and provide fuel for homes, businesses and transportation. Our process creates a productive use for methane which would otherwise be burned or vented to the atmosphere. And in doing so, we displace traditional fossil fuels from the energy system.

HETI: Archaea recently brought online a first-of-its-kind RNG plant in Medora, Indiana. Can you tell us more about the launch and why it’s such a significant milestone for the company?  

SS:Archaea’s Medora plant came online in October 2023 – it was the first Archaea RNG plant to come online since bp’s acquisition. At Medora, we deployed the Archaea Modular Design (AMD) which streamlines and accelerates the time it takes to build our plants. Traditionally, RNG plants have been custom-built, but AMD allows plants to be built on skids with interchangeable components for faster builds.

HETI: Now that the Medora plant is online, what does the future hold? What are some of Archaea’s priorities over the next 12 months and beyond?  

SS: We plan to bring online around 15 RNG plants in each of 2024 and 2025. Archaea has a development pipeline of more than 80 projects that underpin the potential for around five-fold growth in RNG production by 2030.

We will continue to operate around 50 sites across the US – including RNG plants, digesters and landfill gas-to-electric facilities.

And we are looking to the future. For example, at our Assai plant in Pennsylvania, the largest RNG plant in the US, we are in the planning stages to drill a carbon capture sequestration (CCS) appraisal well to determine if carbon dioxide sequestration could be feasible at this site, really demonstrating our commitment to decarbonization and the optionality in value we have across our portfolio.

HETI: bp has had an office in Washington, DC for many years. Can you tell us more about the role that legislation has to play in the energy transition? 

SS: Policy can play a critical role in advancing the energy transition, providing the necessary support to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We actively advocate for such policies through direct lobbying, formal comments and testimony, communications activities and advertising. We also advocate with regulators to help inform their rulemakings, as with the US Environmental Protection Agency to support the finalization of a well-designed electric Renewable Identification Number (eRIN) program.

HETI: Science and innovation are key drivers of the energy transition. In your view, what are some of most exciting innovations supporting the goal to reach net-zero emissions?  

SS: We don’t just talk about innovation in bp, we do it – and have been for many years. This track record gives us confidence in continuing to transform, change and innovate at pace and scale. The Archaea Modular Design is a great example of the type of innovation that bp supports which enables us to pursue our goal of net-zero emissions.

Beyond Archaea, we have engineers and scientists across bp who are working on innovative solutions with the goal of lowering emissions. We believe that we need to invest in lower carbon energy to meet the world’s climate objectives, but we also need to invest in today’s energy system, which is primarily hydrocarbon focused. It’s an ‘and’ not ‘or’ approach, and we need both to be successful.

Learn more about Archaea and the work they are doing in energy transition.

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This article originally ran on the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative blog. HETI exists to support Houston's future as an energy leader. For more information about the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, EnergyCapitalHTX's presenting sponsor, visit htxenergytransition.org.

bp is now using Baker Hughes emissions abatement technology, flare.IQ, to quantify methane emissions from its flares. Photo via Canva

Baker Hughes, bp team up on flare emissions monitoring tech

partnerships

Two energy companies with Houston headquarters are collaborating on flare emissions monitoring.

According to a news release, bp is now using Baker Hughes emissions abatement technology, flare.IQ, to quantify "methane emissions from its flares, a new application for the upstream oil and gas sector." The statement goes on to explain that the industry doesn't have a to methane emission quantifying, and that bp ad Baker Hughes has facilitated a large, full-scale series of studies on the technology.

Now, bp is utilizing 65 flares across seven regions to reduce emissions.

“bp’s transformation is underway, turning strategy into action through delivery of our targets and aims. We don’t have all the answers, and we certainly can’t do this on our own," Fawaz Bitar, bp senior vice president of Health Safety Environment & Carbon, says in the release. "Through our long-standing partnership with Baker Hughes, we have progressed technology and implemented methane quantification for oil and gas flares, helping us to achieve the first milestone of our Aim 4. We continue to look at opportunities like this, where we can collaborate across the industry to find solutions to our biggest challenges."

The flare.IQ technology is a part of Baker Hughes’ Panametrics product line portfolio, and it builds on 40 years of ultrasonic flare metering technology experience. The advanced analytics platform provides operators with real-time, decision-making data.

“Our collaboration with bp is an important landmark and a further illustration that technology is a key enabler for addressing the energy trilemma of security, sustainability and affordability,” Ganesh Ramaswamy, executive vice president of Industrial & Energy Technology at Baker Hughes, says in the release. “As a leader in developing climate technology solutions, such as our flare.IQ emissions monitoring and abatement technology, cooperations like the one we have with bp are key to testing and validating in the field solutions that can enable operators to achieve emissions reduction goals efficiently and economically.”

Companies including Houston-based Chevron and Hess and BP, each with a Houston presence, offered bids. Photo via Getty Images

Houston oil companies offer $382M for drilling rights in Gulf of Mexico in last offshore sale before 2025

for sale

Last month, oil companies offered $382 million for drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after courts rejected the Biden administration's plans to scale back the sale to protect an endangered whale species.

The auction was the last of several offshore oil and gas lease sales mandated under the 2022 climate law. It comes as President Joe Biden’s Democratic administration tries to navigate between energy companies seeking greater oil and gas production and environmental activists who want to stop new drilling to help combat climate change.

Companies including Houston-based Chevron and Hess and BP, each with a Houston presence, offered bids on more than 300 parcels covering 2,700 square miles (7,000 square kilometers), according to the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The dollar amount of the successful bids marked a sharp increase from the previous sale in March 2023, when the Interior Department awarded leases covering about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers) for $250 million.

The next sale will be conducted in 2025, to the frustration of energy companies and Republicans who say the administration is hampering U.S. oil production.

Wednesday's online auction was originally scheduled for September but got delayed by a court battle after the administration reduced the area available for leases from 73 million acres (30 million hectares) to 67 million acres (27 million hectares) as part of a plan to protect the endangered Rice’s whale.

Chevron, Shell Offshore, the American Petroleum Institute and the state of Louisiana sued to reverse the cut in acreage and block the inclusion of the whale-protecting measures in the lease sale provisions.

A federal judge in southwest Louisiana ordered the sale to go on without the whale protections, which also included regulations governing vessel speed and personnel. Environmental groups appealed, but the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month rejected their arguments against the sale and threw out the plans to scale it back.

The lease sale was required under a compromise with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a supporter of the oil and gas industry who cast the deciding vote in favor of the landmark climate law. The measure was approved with only Democratic votes in Congress. Under the terms negotiated by Manchin, the government must offer at least 60 million acres of offshore oil and gas leases in any one-year period before it can offer offshore wind leases that are part of its strategy to fight climate change.

Only a small portion of parcels that are offered for sale typically receive bids, in areas where companies want to expand their existing drilling activities or where they foresee future development potential.

The administration in September proposed up to three oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico over the next five years and none in Alaska waters. That was the minimum number the administration could legally offer if it wants to continue expanding offshore wind development.

Environmental groups criticized the five-year plan as a “missed opportunity” to stop the expansion of oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and address climate change.

“New oil and gas operations (in the Gulf) will only bring more health risks to Gulf Coast communities and slow our transition to a clean-energy economy,'' said Earthjustice attorney Brettny Hardy.

The industry, meanwhile, said more sales are needed — and sooner.

“In our forward-thinking industry, securing new lease blocks is vital for exploring and developing resources crucial to the U.S. economy,'' said National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito. “The Gulf of Mexico is a prime economic engine and investment area, and this (lease sale) was the last chance for companies to secure leases in the near term.''

Holly Hopkins, API vice president of upstream policy, called Wednesday's sale "a "positive step after multiple delays,'' and noted that it generated the highest dollar value for bids in nearly a decade.

The results demonstrate that the oil and gas industry “is working to meet growing demand and investing in the nation’s long-term energy security,'' Hopkins said. “Just as today’s record U.S. production was supported by investment and policy decisions made years ago, new leasing opportunities are critical for maintaining American energy leadership for decades to come.''

The administration's clean-energy ambitions have been hampered by recent project cancellations including two large wind projects shelved last month off the New Jersey coast and the earlier cancellation of three projects that would have sent power to New England.

Revterra was selected from among 10 finalists receiving up to $1 million piloting opportunities. Photo via ADNOC

Houston-based startup secures million-dollar prize after global competition

big win

A Houston sustainability startup has secured a major win on a global scale.

Revterra, which produces novel batteries made from recycled steel, has been awarded a million-dollar piloting opportunity by ADNOC following a global competition.

The ADNOC Decarbonization Technology Challenge, in collaboration with AWS, bp, Hub71, and the Net Zero Technology Centre, sought to find emerging climate tech innovations that are ready for scale.

The contest drew 650 applicants from across 50 countries, and applicants specialized in innovations in oil and gas emissions reduction, nature-based solutions, carbon capture utilization and storage, digital applications, new energies, oil and gas emissions reduction and advanced materials for decarbonization.

At the event in Dubai, Revterra was selected from among 10 finalists receiving up to $1 million piloting opportunities. In addition to the $1 million, they will gain access to facilities and expertise at the ADNOC Research and Innovation Center in Abu Dhabi.

“We are thrilled to win this opportunity,” Patrick Flam, CFO of Revterra, says in a news release. “At Revterra, we have developed an environmentally friendly battery that doesn’t rely on metals like lithium, nickel, or cobalt. Instead, our 2MW batteries are built using recycled steel and rely on rotational energy storage technology to achieve maximum power with a minimal environmental footprint. I am excited to work with our new partners at ADNOC to further develop our solution and deploy it across ADNOC’s operations.”

ADNOC is accelerating the decarbonization of its operations and looks to reduce its carbon intensity by 25 percent by 2030.

“ADNOC is leveraging partnerships and innovative climate technologies to accelerate our decarbonization goals and responsibly enable the energy transition,” Musabbeh Al Kaabi, ADNOC executive director for Low Carbon Solutions and International Growth, adds in the release. “The ADNOC Decarbonization Technology Challenge supports this objective, and we congratulate Revterra for emerging victorious amongst very competitive submissions from around the world.

"We look forward to working with Revterra to unlock cutting-edge solutions that will enhance efficiencies and continue decarbonizing our operations,” he continues.

BP's solar park is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2024. Photo via bp.com

BP breaks ground​ on Texas solar farm, plans to open it next year

sun-powered peacock

British energy giant BP, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, has started construction on a 187-megawatt solar farm about 10 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.

The Peacock Solar facility will generate power for a nearby chemical complex operated by Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, a joint venture between Spring-based energy company ExxonMobil and SABIC, a Saudi Arabian chemical conglomerate whose products are used to make clothes, food containers, packaging, agricultural film, and construction materials. SABIC’s Americas headquarters is in Houston.

Gulf Coast Growth Ventures opened the plant in 2022. The joint venture says the ethylene cracker and derivatives complex, located northwest of the town of Gregory, employs about 600 people.

BP says the solar project, which is expected to create about 300 construction jobs, will produce enough energy each year to power the equivalent of 34,000 homes. The solar park is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2024.

“We want to be good stewards of our environment,” Paul Fritsch, president of Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, says in a BP news release. “Once online, the solar-generated electricity will be used to partially power our plant and help reduce emissions in support of a net-zero future.”

At full capacity, Peacock’s renewable power could keep more than 256,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere each year, BP says.

BP’s joint venture partner, British solar company Lightsource BP, is developing the solar project and managing construction on behalf of BP. In 2017, BP bought a 43 percent stake in Lightsource and now holds a 50 percent stake.

Canadian contractor PCL Construction is providing construction and engineering services for the solar setup, and Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar and Norwalk, Connecticut-based GameChange Solar are supplying the solar equipment.

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Exclusive: Houston clean energy accelerator names 4th cohort of early-stage tech companies

coming soon to Hou

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator has named 12 early-stage energy technology companies to its latest cohort.

The companies, which hail from six states and two countries, are providing solutions across carbon management, advanced materials, hydrogen, solar, and more. The program, which operates in a hybrid capacity based out of the Ion, will run for 10 weeks beginning July 9 and culminating in a demo day alongside the 21st Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum on September 12. Throughout the duration, the companies will come to Houston three times.

"As Houston’s preeminent energy startup accelerator, this is an open door to the region’s energy ecosystem for ventures from around the world and puts them through a rigorous curriculum to bolster their fundraising efforts, prepare them for accelerated adoption into the marketplace and expand their connections for potential pilots, partnerships and sales," per a Rice Alliance news release.

This cohort's executives-in-residence, or XiRs, include Tim Franklin-Hensler, John Jeffers, Ritu Sachdeva and Nick Tillmann. In addition to these innovators — who bring their expertise, mentorship, and strategic growth planning — the program is ed by the Rice Alliance’s Kerri Smith and Matt Peña.

Class 4 for the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator includes:

  • 1s1 Energy, based in Portola Valley, California, develops electrolyzers with boron-based materials so that utilities and heavy industry can produce low-cost green hydrogen to decarbonize existing and future businesses.
  • Houston-based Capwell provides a cost-effective, modular, and easily transportable system that eliminates methane emissions from wells for state governments and oil and as companies.
  • CarboMat, from Calgary, Alberta, provides a clean technology that produces low-cost, sustainable, and mid-tier grade carbon fibers at a 60 percent reduced production cost and 50 percent reduced GHG emissions to composite manufacturers in industries that require large volumes of inexpensive carbon fibers for production of commodity grade products.
  • Cleveland, Ohio-headquartered Corrolytics offers cutting-edge technology that detects corrosion on-site and in near real-time, providing accurate insights into microbial corrosion and general corrosion.
  • Geolabe, from Los Almos, New Mexico, provides an automated methane monitoring system that helps organizations measure environmental performance and introduce and prioritize remedial actions.
  • Kaizen, which operates in Tomball just outside of Houston, provides hydrogen based microgrids that enable fleet electrification at sites that are grid constrained or off grid. The solutions emit no local emissions and reduce global emissions.
  • Los Angeles-based Mitico offers services and equipment to capture carbon dioxide with a patent-pending granulated metal carbonate sorption technology captures over 95 percent of the CO2 emitted from post-combustion point sources.
  • OceanBit, headquartered in Honolulu, provides ocean thermal energy technologies and power plants that delivers abundant, affordable, base load power to utilities and companies who need a firm, dispatchable, and 24/7 carbon-free source of electricity.
  • From Ontario, Canada, QEA Tech provides detailed building envelope energy audits using drones, thermography, and proprietary AI based software.
  • Houston-based Sensytec offers patented sensors, delivering real-time, accurate material performance data of concrete and advanced building materials.
  • Vroom Solar, based in Springfield, Missouri, provides Smart Solar Management technology that optimizes solar and optional AC power differently at a lower cost and smaller footprint for solar customers who need affordable, efficient, and user-friendly power anywhere.
  • VulcanX, from Vancouver, Canada, provides hydrogen and solid carbon to gas utilities, steel manufacturers and ammonia producers who require low-cost and low-emission hydrogen.

Since launching in 2021, the Clean Energy Accelerator has accelerated 43 ventures that have raised more than $166 million in funding. According to the program, these companies have piloted their technologies, connected with investors, created jobs, and many relocated to Houston.

The 2023 cohort included 15 clean energy companies.

Oxy enters new partnership to demonstrate, deploy promising lithium technology

teaming up

Houston-based Oxy has opted into a joint venture to deploy lithium technology from its subsidiary.

The JV is with BHE Renewables, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. The partnership will demonstrate and deploy direct lithium extraction technology from TerraLithium, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oxy.

TerraLithium's DLE technology extracts and commercially sustainably produces lithium compounds from geothermal brine. Lithium has been a vital part of batteries for electric vehicles, and energy grid storage, which both areas have seen continued demand. The battery lithium demand is expected to increase tenfold over 2020–2030 according to the International Renewable Energy Agency

“Creating a secure, reliable and domestic supply of high-purity lithium products to help meet growing global lithium demand is essential for the energy transition,” President and General Manager of TerraLithium Jeff Alvare says in a news release. “The partnership with BHE Renewables will enable the joint venture to accelerate the development of our Direct Lithium Extraction and associated technologies and advance them toward commercial lithium production.”

BHE Renewables currently operates 10 geothermal power plants in California’s Imperial Valley. The location processes 50,000 gallons of lithium-rich brine per minute to produce 345 megawatts of clean energy. The joint venture aims for an environmentally safe way to demonstrate the feasibility of using the TerraLithium DLE technology to produce lithium, which began at BHE Renewables’ Imperial Valley geothermal facility. The companies also plan to license the technology and develop commercial lithium production facilities to expand outside the Imperial Valley area.

“By leveraging Occidental’s expertise in managing and processing brine in our oil and gas and chemicals businesses, combined with BHE Renewables’ deep knowledge in geothermal operations, we are uniquely positioned to advance a more sustainable form of lithium production,” Richard Jackson, president of U.S. Onshore Resources and Carbon Management and Operations at Oxy adds. “We look forward to working with BHE Renewables to demonstrate how DLE technology can produce a critical mineral that society needs to further net zero goals.”

Poll: Many Texans, Americans still shy away from EV ownership despite recent pushes

by the numbers

Many Americans still aren’t sold on going electric for their next car purchase. High prices and a lack of easy-to-find charging stations are major sticking points, a new poll shows.

About 4 in 10 U.S. adults say they would be at least somewhat likely to buy an EV the next time they buy a car, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, while 46% say they are not too likely or not at all likely to purchase one.

The poll results, which echo an AP-NORC poll from last year, show that President Joe Biden’s election-year plan to dramatically raise EV sales is running into resistance from American drivers. Only 13% of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household owns or leases a gas-hybrid car, and just 9% own or lease an electric vehicle.

Texas, which was recently deemed one of the worst states for EV drivers, was reported in a Texas Trends survey to only have 5.1 percent of residents drive an electric-powered car, truck, or SUV.

Caleb Jud of Cincinnati said he’s considering an EV, but may end up with a plug-in hybrid — if he goes electric. While Cincinnati winters aren’t extremely cold, “the thought of getting stuck in the driveway with an EV that won’t run is worrisome, and I know it wouldn’t be an issue with a plug-in hybrid,″ he said. Freezing temperatures can slow chemical reactions in EV batteries, depleting power and reducing driving range.

A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency requires that about 56% of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2032, along with at least 13% plug-in hybrids or other partially electric cars. Auto companies are investing billions in factories and battery technology in an effort to speed up the switch to EVs to cut pollution, fight climate change — and meet the deadline.

EVs are a key part of Biden’s climate agenda. Republicans led by presumptive nominee Donald Trump are turning it into a campaign issue.

Younger people are more open to eventually purchasing an EV than older adults. More than half of those under 45 say they are at least “somewhat” likely to consider an EV purchase. About 32% of those over 45 are somewhat likely to buy an EV, the poll shows.

But only 21% of U.S. adults say they are “very” or “extremely” likely to buy an EV for their next car, according to the poll, and 21% call it somewhat likely. Worries about cost are widespread, as are other practical concerns.

Range anxiety – the idea that EVs cannot go far enough on a single charge and may leave a driver stranded — continues to be a major reason why many Americans do not purchase electric vehicles.

About half of U.S. adults cite worries about range as a major reason not to buy an EV. About 4 in 10 say a major strike against EVs is that they take too long to charge or they don’t know of any public charging stations nearby.

Concern about range is leading some to consider gas-engine hybrids, which allow driving even when the battery runs out. Jud, a 33-year-old operations specialist and political independent, said a hybrid "is more than enough for my about-town shopping, dropping my son off at school'' and other uses.

With EV prices declining, cost would not be a factor, Jud said — a minority view among those polled. Nearly 6 in 10 adults cite cost as a major reason why they would not purchase an EV.

Price is a bigger concern among older adults.

The average price for a new EV was $52,314 in February, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's down by 12.8% from a year earlier, but still higher than the average price for all new vehicles of $47,244, the report said.

Jose Valdez of San Antonio owns three EVs, including a new Mustang Mach-E. With a tax credit and other incentives, the sleek new car cost about $49,000, Valdez said. He thinks it's well worth the money.

"People think they cost an arm and a leg, but once they experience (driving) an EV, they'll have a different mindset,'' said Valdez, a retired state maintenance worker.

The 45-year-old Republican said he does not believe in climate change. “I care more about saving green” dollars, he said, adding that he loves the EV's quiet ride and the fact he doesn't have to pay for gas or maintenance. EVs have fewer parts than gas-powered cars and generally cost less to maintain. Valdez installed his home charger himself for less than $700 and uses it for all three family cars, the Mustang and two older Ford hybrids.

With a recently purchased converter, he can also charge at a nearby Tesla supercharger station, Valdez said.

About half of those who say they live in rural areas cite lack of charging infrastructure as a major factor in not buying an EV, compared with 4 in 10 of those living in urban communities.

Daphne Boyd, of Ocala, Florida, has no interest in owning an EV. There are few public chargers near her rural home “and EVs don’t make any environmental sense,″ she said, citing precious metals that must be mined to make batteries, including in some countries that rely on child labor or other unsafe conditions. She also worries that heavy EV batteries increase wear-and-tear on tires and make the cars less efficient. Experts say extra battery weight can wear on tires but say proper maintenance and careful driving can extend tire life.

Boyd, a 54-year-old Republican and self-described farm wife, said EVs may eventually make economic and environmental sense, but “they’re not where they need to be” to convince her to buy one now or in the immediate future.

Ruth Mitchell, a novelist from Eureka Springs, Arkansas, loves her 2017 Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid that can go about 50 miles on battery power before the gas engine takes over. “It’s wonderful — quiet, great pickup, cheap to drive. I rave about it on Facebook,″ she said.

Mitchell, a 70-year-old Democrat, charges her car at home but says there are several public chargers near her house if needed. She’s not looking for a new car, Mitchell said, but when she does it will be electric: “I won't drive anything else.''

___

The AP-NORC poll of 6,265 adults was conducted March 26 to April 10, 2024 using a combined sample of interviews from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population, and interviews from opt-in online panels. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points. The AmeriSpeak panel is recruited randomly using address-based sampling methods, and respondents later were interviewed online or by phone.