Pew finds public aware of energy boom, likes renewables

Most people surveyed are gradually becoming aware that the United States is undergoing a domestic energy boom, but they still want to see greater development of alternative energy sources, the Pew Research Center reported Dec. 18.

U.S. public attitudes over energy have changed only modestly in recent times, Pew concluded from the survey that was taken Dec. 3 through Dec. 7. The survey of more than 1,500 adults also indicated reluctance about increased use of nuclear power.

By a 53%-41% margin, more oppose than favor the government promoting the increased use of nuclear power. Opposition to nuclear power has been at about 50% or above since March 2011, following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, Pew said in its recent research.

 In broad terms, developing alternative energy is viewed as a more important priority than expanding the exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas. By two-to-one (60% to 30%), more prioritize the development of alternative energy sources than expanded extraction of energy from traditional sources, Pew said.

Adults under 30 express broad support for prioritizing alternative energy development over expanding traditional sources (74%-20%).

By contrast, those 65 and older are roughly divided over whether developing sources such as wind, solar and hydrogen is the more important priority (48%) or whether expanding production of oil, coal and natural gas should be given more priority (41%), Pew said.

Yet when asked about specific policies to address the energy supply, a majority of Americans continue to support allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters (56%) and more mining and drilling on federally-owned land (58%). These opinions are largely unchanged from recent years, Pew said.

Republicans (53%) are more likely to stress traditional energy sources. By contrast 72% of Democrats and 66% of independents stress development of alternative energy.

Across regions, support for prioritizing alternative energy development is lowest in the South (52%).

Most aware of growing U.S. production; have doubts about fracking

Currently, 54% say domestic energy production has been increasing in recent years, up from 48% in September 2013.

Overall, 54% say that from what they’ve read and heard, the amount of energy produced in the United States has been increasing in recent years; just 10% say it has been decreasing, while 27% say it’s been staying about the same. Last fall, somewhat fewer (48%) said they thought energy production in the U.S. was up. The survey said 67% of college graduates know that domestic energy production is increasing.

The public is most acutely aware of this because of the falling pump prices of gasoline, Pew reported.

In November, the Pew Research Center found that the public continues to favor construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, though by a smaller margin than a year earlier. About six-in-ten (59%) favor building the pipeline while 31% are opposed.

The same survey found that more Americans oppose (47%) than favor (41%) the increased use of fracking to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. The balance of opinion on fracking has tilted more negative; in March 2013, more favored (48%) than opposed (38%) the increased use of fracking.

The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted among a national sample of 1,507 adults, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (605 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 902 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 513 who had no landline telephone).

The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at