Most Americans Improving Energy Efficiency at Home

While oil prices rise in response to unrest in oil producing nations and increased demand from growing nations, Americans continue to discuss and consider alternative energy options and lifestyle changes amidst a slow economic recovery. Six in ten (61%) Americans describe themselves as knowledgeable about energy issues, including sources of electrical power and energy efficiency. This is relatively unchanged since 2009 when 59% of Americans described themselves as knowledgeable about energy issues.

Fewer are knowledgeable about energy issues and sources of electrical power

NEW YORK, March 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ —

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 3,171 adults surveyed online between February 14 and 21, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

Energy knowledge varies by region and age with Americans in the East (67%) and West (64%) and those over the age of 65 (65%) most knowledgeable. Three-quarters of men (75%) say they are knowledgeable about energy issues while less than half (47%) of women say the same.

Sources of Energy for Electric Power Production

When it comes to sources of energy, the public indicates that the benefits outweigh the risks for wind (75%) and solar power (77%). Natural gas (64%) and geothermal (52%) resonate as beneficial while there is less certainty about the benefits of nuclear (42%) and coal (38%).  These views compare to 2009 when at least two-thirds of Americans said that when used, the benefits of solar (82%), wind (78%) and natural gas (66%) outweighed any associated risks.

In 2009, two in five Americans (42%) said the risks of using coal outweighed the benefits while 36% believed the benefits outweighed the risks. Further, almost one-quarter of Americans (22%) said they were not at all sure. Today, that view has not changed very much as 38% say benefits outweigh risks, but 43% believe the risks outweigh the benefits; those unsure has dropped to 19%.

Nuclear power plant proposals, after a U.S. hiatus on new plant construction, have been surging. Less than half of Americans (42%) say the benefits outweigh the risks of nuclear energy while 21% are not at all sure and 37% say the risks outweigh the benefits. In 2009, the view was similar – 44% of Americans said the benefits outweighed the risks and 34% believed the risks outweighed the benefits. When asked about nuclear power plant waste, 69% of Americans agree that it is a national issue. Two in ten (22%) are not at all sure.

When asked if renewable energy and climate change are issues states should manage as opposed to the federal government, Americans are split – 36% agree these are issues for individual states to handle, 43% disagree and 21% are not at all sure.

Improving Energy Efficiency at Home

Eight in ten Americans (84%) say they turn off lights and appliances when not in use to conserve energy. Americans are also replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs (60%), using power strips (60%), using low-wattage bulbs (56%), purchasing Energy Star™ appliances (53%), and reducing hot water usage (51%). When it comes to more complex tasks such as weather stripping, sealing gaps and installation of products, the responses drop to between 29% and 38% for each behavior. Even fewer (11%) conduct home energy evaluations or audits and 5% say they engage in none of these activities.

Smart Grid

More than half of all Americans (56%) have not heard the term "smart grid," with more than six in ten women unfamiliar with it (66%, compared to 46% of men).

When asked whether or not "smart grid" will increase the use of solar, wind and other renewable sources, only 38% agree that it will while 55% are not at all sure.  Likewise, six in ten Americans (60%) are not at all sure if "smart grid" will increase the cost of electricity—24% agree that it will.

So What?

Over the past few years, there have been coal mine rescues; state legislation to prohibit mountain top mining of coal; and, increasing Environmental Protection Agency regulatory actions on coal plants. Coal provides approximately half (49%) of electrical power production in the United States, is the most heavily used source of energy and is being subjected to a high degree of regulatory scrutiny. It is estimated that 16% of the existing U.S. coal plant will be shut down over the next five years because of the cost of regulatory compliance. The question is – what will replace coal, especially in the eastern U.S.?

This survey fielded prior to the recent Japanese earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear power plant issues. U.S. nuclear power plants are similar in design and function to those in Japan so it is unclear what effect the Japanese incident will have on American perceptions of nuclear power. But, this poll makes clear that Americans believe nuclear waste is a national issue to resolve.

However, there remains limited knowledge of many alternative energy sources, as new debates over national security and foreign oil dependence, gas prices at the pump and the correlation between energy costs and economic recovery rage on. Significant room still exists to educate the public on the pros and cons of each source of energy including factors such as: current and future use of each source, reliability, cost, environmental impacts, safety, security and ways to become more energy efficient.  

TABLE 1

KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ENERGY ISSUES AND ELECTRICAL POWER

"Thinking of something else, how knowledgeable would you say you are about energy issues including sources of electrical power and energy efficiency?"

Base: All adults

Total 2009

Total

2011

Region

Gender

East

Midwest

South

West

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Knowledgeable (NET)

59

61

67

57

57

64

75

47

    Very knowledgeable

9

12

20

9

8

13

21

4

    Somewhat knowledgeable

50

49

47

48

49

51

55

44

Not knowledgeable (NET)

41

39

33

43

43

36

25

53

    Not very knowledgeable

32

31

27

34

34

27

20

41

    Not at all knowledgeable

8

9

7

9

9

10

5

12

Age

18-24

25-29

30-39

40-49

50-64

65+

%

%

%

%

%

%

Knowledgeable (NET)

55

54

63

61

61

65

    Very knowledgeable

10

9

23

9

10

9

    Somewhat knowledgeable

44

44

40

52

52

57

Not knowledgeable (NET)

45

46

37

39

39

35

    Not very knowledgeable

37

36

28

29

30

29

    Not at all knowledgeable

8

11

9

10

8

6

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 2

BENEFITS VERSUS RISKS FOR VARIOUS ENERGY SOURCES

"There are many sources of electric power used in the U.S.  To the best of your knowledge, would you say the benefits of each source outweigh the risks or do you believe the risks outweigh the benefits?"

Base: All adults

BENEFITS

OUTWEIGH

RISKS (NET)

Benefits

strongly

outweigh

risks

Benefits

somewhat

outweigh

risks

RISKS

OUTWEIGH

BENEFITS

(NET)

Risks

somewhat

outweigh

benefits

Risks

strongly

outweigh

benefits

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Solar

2011

77

64

13

8

3

6

14

2009

82

68

14

5

3

2

13

Wind

2011

75

61

14

10

3

7

15

2009

78

62

17

7

4

2

15

Natural gas

2011

64

31

34

17

11

6

18

2009

66

30

36

14

11

3

20

Geothermal

2011

52

33

18

10

5

5

38

2009

52

32

20

7

5

2

40

Nuclear

2011

42

20

22

37

18

19

21

2009

44

21

23

34

17

17

22

Coal

2011

38

15

23

43

24

18

19

2009

36

13

23

42

22

20

22

Biomass

2011

30

14

17

12

7

6

57

2009

28

12

16

12

8

4

60

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 3

AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH VARIOUS ENERGY-RELATED STATEMENTS AND ISSUES

"How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?"

Base: All adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Nuclear power plant waste is a national issue

69

47


Scott's Contracting
scottscontracting@gmail.com
http://stlouisrenewableenergy.blogspot.com
https://scottscontracting.wordpress.com

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