Survey confirms US confusion about energy

Bob Tippee
Editor

Surveys can provide important ratification of the obvious. One recent survey, for example, indicates Americans know little about energy.

Conducted by the Manhattan Institute's Center for Energy Policy and the Environment (CEPE) and Zogby International, the survey quizzed 1,000 Americans on basic energy facts.

"The survey found that the views that Americans hold about a wide range of these issues are, in key ways, inaccurate," wrote Max Schulz, CEPE senior fellow, in a report summary.

According to Schulz, a former policy advisor and speech writer for US energy secretaries, "significant numbers of people" don't understand matters such as:

--Fuels representing the main sources of energy. More than 60% of respondents think most US energy comes from oil, which represents 40% of supply.

--Main uses of energy supplies. Almost half think incorrectly that transportation accounts for most US energy consumption.

--Countries that supply the most oil to the US. More than half think Saudi Arabia is the No. 1 supplier. It's really No. 3, in a tie with Venezuela behind Canada and Mexico.

--Extent of oil reserves. Forty-three percent think the world will run out of oil during this century.

--The rate of global warming. More than three fourths believe warming was greater in the second half of the past century than during the first, apparently unaware of the decline in global average temperature during 1945-75.

--Terms of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Sixty percent mistakenly believe the agreement requires all countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gas.

--The environmental record of nuclear power plants. Only 17% know that no one died in the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania.

--The extent of urban air pollution. Eighty-four percent incorrectly believe urban pollution is rising.

--Effects of conservation and increases in energy efficiency. Two thirds or more believe the US can meet future energy needs solely with conservation and efficiency measures.

The misunderstanding on display here helps explain US bamboozles such as the ethanol mandate, which is among several other subjects covered in the report. It's at www.manhattaninstitute.org.

(Online May 4, 2007; author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

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