The University of Texas at Austin
  • Policy & Law

    Are Americans Losing Interest in Energy?

    By Steve Brooks, McCombs School of Business
    Published: Oct. 17, 2013

    According to the latest University of Texas Energy Poll, Americans are becoming less energized about energy issues. Compared to any time in the past two years, they find energy less important, read about it less often and worry less about saving it at home. At the same time, they’re more troubled about its environmental impacts, both from consuming fuels and from getting them out of the ground.

    Poll results were released Oct. 17 by the McCombs School of Business, which surveyed 2,144 consumers between Sept. 5 and 23.

    chart showing UT Energy Poll respondents' answers about where the U.S. gets foreign oil

    [Credit: Kim Brown]

    Since September 2011, the poll has taken a twice-yearly snapshot of consumer attitudes about energy. This fifth round paints a broader portrait of how they’re changing over time. Energy is still a strong concern, deemed as important by 62 percent of respondents, down from 67 percent a year ago.

    What isn’t so clear is why interest is waning, says poll director Sheril Kirshenbaum. She suggests lighter news coverage as one factor.

    “Prior to the election, energy was everywhere,” she observes. “This year, there have been no major storms like Superstorm Sandy, or a major drought affecting people’s livelihoods. The subject hasn’t been thrown in front of them.”

    Kirshenbaum fears that lower interest may lead to lower energy literacy. She notes that 58 percent of the survey respondents named Saudi Arabia as America’s largest source of imported oil. Only 13 percent gave the correct answer: Canada. Says Kirshenbaum, “There appears to be a lack of engagement and a lack of understanding on many issues.”

    To read more about the poll results, including Americans’ responses to questions about climate change, natural gas, fracking, water issues and national energy policy, visit Texas Enterprise. Responses include:

    • Almost three of every four consumers believe global climate change is occurring. That figure has held steady over the past year, notes Kirshenbaum, up from 65 percent in March 2012.
    • Support for the Keystone XL pipeline has slid over the past year and a half, from 50 down to 41 percent. Approval for expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has followed a similar track, from 46 percent down to 40.
    • Support for natural gas development remains strong, at 61 percent. Consumers see jobs and lower prices as the fuel’s top benefits, and 57 percent also believe its production reduces carbon emissions.
    • Among those familiar with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” support has declined from 48 to 38 percent. The percentage wanting more regulation has climbed 5 points, to 43, with water contamination as the No. 1 fear.
    • Forty-eight percent are dissatisfied with President Barack Obama’s handling of energy issues, versus 22 percent who are satisfied. For Congress, the negative numbers are even more lopsided: 62 percent con, 9 percent pro.
    • Seventy percent of respondents concerned about depletion of water resources. Water is a bigger worry than energy conservation, renewables and carbon emissions.

    View a presentation of the October 2013 poll results in the video below. In three other videos, the researchers focus on findings related to waterclimate change, and hydraulic fracturing. For more information, visit the UT Energy Poll website.

    Or check out the Energy Poll presentation slides on SlideShare

    • Quote 2
      Schuyler Hupp said on Oct. 20, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.
      I suspect that the lack of interest in energy on behalf of the American public is due to the tremendous press coverage related to hydro-fractured "tight oil" that has proliferated over the last couple of years. Many people are now under the impression that energy is not an issue of primary concern, and that it won't be for many decades. Public relations campaigns on behalf of the fossil fuel industry have been quite successful, and the upswing in oil production has been remarkable. The long term picture is something altogether different, however, with the steep decline rates and low EROI of "tight oil" plays telling a different story. The concept of Net Energy or Energy Return On Investment and how the costs embodied in the development of energy resources translate into economic growth (or not), and the broader trend of declining EROI in the production of primary energy resources, have not shown a wide audience beyond the scientific and engineering communities, and is understandably, albeit perilously absent amongst mainstream leadership.
    • Quote 2
      Schuyler Hupp said on Oct. 18, 2013 at 6:11 p.m.
      Energy is probably -the- most important factor underlying economic prosperity. Basically, our living standards are a function of natural capital and human capital (energy and other natural resources applied or amplified by technology and labor). Unfortunately, this is something not currently in the mainstream, not even amongst economists or policy makers, the folks who really need to be aware of such things! Some related links: and Etc.
    • Digg
    • StumbleUpon
    • Facebook
    • Google Bookmarks
    • LinkedIn
    • Twitter
    • Print
    • email

    Related Topics

    , , , , , ,

  • Top Videos

    • ...
    #HiddenUT: There’s More to UT Than You Know
    #HiddenUT: There’s More to UT Than You Know
    From secret nooks to unexpected resources, untold collections, artifacts and treasures...
    10 Things You Need to Know About UT System’s Next Chancellor
    10 Things You Need to Know About UT System’s Next Chancellor
    Longhorn and Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven was named the sole finalist to become...
    Around the World Tour: Longhorns Play Asia, London
    Around the World Tour: Longhorns Play Asia, London
    Summertime is world tour season for big-time musicians: Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and...
    Tech and Health: Innovative Devices Aren’t Science Fiction
    Tech and Health: Innovative Devices Aren’t Science Fiction
    From nanomotors to customized prosthetics, check out inventions developed by Cockrell...
    Lifelike Heart Valve Model Will Aid Treatment
    Lifelike Heart Valve Model Will Aid Treatment
    Michael Sacks is developing mitral valve models that will enable heart surgeons to...
    Dell Med Kickoff Invites Community Input
    Dell Med Kickoff Invites Community Input
    Construction kicked off for the Dell Med School at a ceremony Monday. Leaders, including...
    How Do You Reinvent Health Care?
    How Do You Reinvent Health Care?
    Start by re-imagining medical education, says Dell Med School Dean Clay Johnston....
    Preventing Earthquake Damage
    Preventing Earthquake Damage
    A team of Cockrell School engineers is working in New Zealand to understand soil...
    The Psychology of Home Decor
    The Psychology of Home Decor
    Is your bedroom scattered with laundry? Adorned with photos? Do you and your partner...
    Thirteen rules for school
    Thirteen rules for school
    What do you need to know about your first day of college classes? Get that advice...