In time for Earth Day, a new survey finds widespread support among
Americans for addressing energy problems, but also a lack of basic
knowledge that could prevent citizens from making good choices about
the nation's and the world's energy future.
The new data comes
from Public Agenda, a
non-partisan opinion research group that helps citizens make informed
decisions. Scott Bittle, executive vice president of issue analysis,
says the Energy Learning Curve Survey was
designed to get a sense of what the public knows, what it values and
where it stands on energy issues.
According to the survey,
nine in 10 Americans worry about the price of fuel. Eighty-three
percent are troubled about American dependence on foreign oil. However,
Bittle says, Americans are less concerned about climate change.
"Seventy-one percent say they worry about it, but only 32 percent say they worry a lot," he says.
showed strong support for tax rebates for energy reduction and for new
policies that would require higher gas mileage and energy-efficient new
buildings. But Bittle says the analysis also shows that Americans lack
basic knowledge about energy issues.
"Four in 10 Americans can't name a fossil fuel. Even more, about half, can't name a renewable energy source," he says.
says while people say they want alternative energy, "How can they
understand something as complex as 'cap and trade,' which has very
strong implications for how much they are going to pay and that their
local utilities will use?"
Basically, a cap-and-trade system
provides economic incentives to reduce global warming emissions. Bittle
is concerned that if such a system is put in place, the public may not
understand or support it.
He says leaders and the media must
work to educate the public so that they know what the policy is and how
it affects them. It is not just a question of getting people to accept
the policy, Bittle says, "It's a question of engaging them in what the
actual choices are."
The survey is a sober reminder to use
grassroots organizing to build public support, according to Josh
Dorner, spokesman for the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest
"I think [the survey] shows that we have made a lot of progress but still have a lot of work left to do," he says.
says Americans are ready to move forward on energy. The Energy
Learning Curve Survey provides a baseline for better understanding
American values and knowledge in the debate over the complex energy
issues facing the nation and the world.