The Power of Solar (In the Consumer’s Mind)
Six in ten (61%) Americans describe themselves as knowledgeable about energy issues, including sources of electrical power and energy efficiency, according to results of a new Harris Poll. This is relatively unchanged since 2009 when 59% of Americans described themselves as knowledgeable about energy issues.
Knowledge Varies by Region, Gender
Energy knowledge varies by region and age with Americans in the East (67%) and West (64%) and those older than the age of 65 (65%) most likely to say they are knowledgeable. Three-quarters of men (75%) say they are knowledgeable about energy issues, while less than half (47%) of women say the same.
Most See Solar, Wind Benefits Outweighing Risks
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%.
In terms of nuclear power, 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. This poll was taken before the recent earthquake-related nuclear plant crisis in Japan. In 2009, the view on nuclear power was similar, as 44% of Americans said the benefits outweighed the risks and 34% believed the risks outweighed the benefits.
Turning Off Electricity Most Popular Conservation Tactic
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%).
However, 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. The overwhelming majority of respondents take at least one energy-conserving measure, as only 5% say they engage in none of these activities.
Gallup: 46% Worry About
The US public is more concerned today than a year ago about “the availability and affordability of energy,” based on a recent Gallup poll. Forty-six percent of Americans now say they worry about this a great deal, up 21% from 38% in March 2010. Gallup historical analysis shows today’s level of concern is not extraordinary (the high in the past 10 years was 48% in 2006), but is roughly tied with other high points seen since 2001.