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Published on January 30th, 2015 | by Joshua S Hill


New Survey Reveals American Attitudes To Energy And Environment

January 30th, 2015 by  

A new survey conducted by the University of Michigan has concluded that Americans are as concerned about energy’s impact on the environment as they are about energy’s affordability.

According to the survey, consumers are much more sensitive to higher gasoline prices at the pumps than they are higher home-energy bills.

The University of Michigan Energy Survey, conducted quarterly, is conducted in conjunction with the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, and takes an “academically rigorous’ look at the attitudes towards energy in America.

Inforgraphic ENERGY DEC 12

“This new survey is unique in how it examines personal concerns about energy as consumers view it in their everyday lives,” said survey director John DeCicco, research professor at the U-M Energy Institute. “This careful approach differs from surveys that prompt consumers for their responses on the often politically driven energy debates of the day.”

Six key findings were highlighted by the University of Michigan:

  • Most Americans feel energy is affordable
  • Higher-income consumers say they could bear much greater cost increases than middle and lower-income consumers
  • Lower-income consumers are more pessimistic about future energy costs
  • Consumers express much greater sensitivity to higher gasoline prices than they do to higher home energy bills
  • Consumers are at least as concerned about the impact of energy on the environment as they are about the affordability of energy
  • When it comes to concern about energy’s impact on the environment, geography matters

While several of these points seem like no-brainers — yes, those who earn more are probably less concerned about higher home energy bills — there are some interesting results from the survey nonetheless.

Specifically, 93% of consumers feel that home energy is affordable, while 95% also feel that gasoline is affordable (though, this figure was a result of the survey doneย prior to the recent plunge in gasoline prices). Interestingly, the question that led to these answers was not “is home energy affordable,” but rather, in line with the academically rigorous nature of the study, how much more expensive energy would have to get before a home-owner would start making changes to their living behavior.

As the study pertains to attitudes towards the environment, the survey found 59% worry “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about the impact that energy generation has on the environment, and 55% worry “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about energy affordability. On the whole though, nobody really cares about energy reliability, with only 32% saying they worry about it.

Residents of the Northeast of America are the most concerned citizens with energy’s impact on the environment, with 68% of consumers saying they worry “a great deal” or “a fair amount.” The level of concern was lower in the South and West of the country, and Midwesterners squared up with the national average of 59%.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

  • Matt

    Look at the lower left half of the info graphic. This is why a CO2 tax that returns the funds equally to all works so well. Those that it hits the most (high incomes) have the ability to do something about it. So it means change happens fast, and not on the back of low income suffering.

  • cutter1954

    I skimmed the actual study.Amongst many annoying points was that the researchers didn’t ask much about alternative energy,and seemingly had bought into the idea that the choice seemed to be between having “cheap” (nothing paid towards external costs of fossil fuels) fossil fuels and some increase in their prices because of “environmental” concerns.For example,if the price of gasoline were to climb to $6.00 per gallon,would that be intolerable?Would it be $6.00 per gallon because of decreased supply,Or because of a carbon tax offset dollar by dollar with a decrease in payroll tax?Or fee and dividend system?How would one’s behavior change if it was $6.00 per gallon?How many drivers would suddenly discover that re “range anxiety” that they could afford an ev car and a little more valium? I think realistically the takehome message is that by and large except for some early adopters and CleanTechnica readers most people aren’t really following the issue and aren’t really considering any alternatives to the status quo.

  • Robert Pollock

    While people are still in the workforce, they cling to the dream of more income from working harder, being promoted, investment opportunities etc. Variable income opportunities means less regard for the price of energy. You need it, you pay the price.
    Retirement however, is another picture altogether and the majority of Americans are not ready. When incomes become fixed, and the opportunities to earn more are few to none, suddenly opinions regarding the cost of energy will get more focused. Our nature is to not do anything today, that can be done tomorrow, so retirees who still have the ‘seed’ money to invest in providing and distributing more carefully their own electricity, will jump on a better and cheaper way. They’ll still benefit hugely, they just missed the opportunity to enjoy the savings earlier. Another benefit of investing in some solar now, is to understand the industry and get a bigger picture of where you stand. It’s never where you think you are, or where you want to be, no system performs as planned perfectly. A little R&D and experience with the life style and autonomy now, will go a long way when you’re 65 years old, with Alzheimers.

  • Kevin McKinney

    It is probably rational in many cases to worry more about gasoline prices than home energy prices. For me, the most expensive month last year for home energy was February, when combined electric and gas bills exceeded $300; two other cold-weather months exceeded $200. Seven of the remaining months cost less than $150. Yet I was paying (I would estimate) $200 or more each month for gas.

    Looking forward to 1) that next, more efficient vehicle, and 2) lifestyle changes that eliminate some of that driving. The first seems a lock to happen; the second, less so, unfortunately.

  • spec9

    People need to realize that we are in an energy price crash right now and that this will NOT last. It can’t. Drillers are going bankrupt. I hope they make plans for higher prices.

    • Martin

      Drillers and related jobs/work could go an do geothermal, all the same
      work and tools.

  • Michael G

    If you look at where pollution is significant it matches up well with how people view energyand the environment. Seeing and breathing it makes a huge difference. In CA, there are all these lovely mountains surrounding our cities, but you can’t see them very well (or at all) through the brown haze. (pg 21 of: http://www.transportationandclimate.org/sites/default/files/TCI-EV-Lit-Review_0.pdf.)

  • Kyle Field

    This is why we need governmental mandates, taxes to drive the necessary behavior. We are too selfish to do it for ourselves (in general). I find myself with this mindset more often that I would care to admit ๐Ÿ™

  • Will E

    about the price of energy

    the keystone pipeline will cost 8 billion dollars. and will not produce energy, just transport.
    ass the price of Solar dropped to 1 dollar a kwh, install 8 billion
    kwh of solar panels, and you got 8 billion kwh a year for free.
    for many years. with solar ray index 2 you get 16 billion kwh a year.
    install a 8 billion dollar windfarm. what is the energy output of a 8 billion dollar windfarm.
    this makes energy prices come down.

    • spec9

      The keystone pipeline will raise the price of gas in the mid-west and Mountain states since it will help eliminate the local glut from tar sands & Bakken oil. I’m gonna laugh when those supporters of the pipeline in that region get that rude awakening.

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