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AMERICA SPEAKS OUT ON ENERGY

DOE Energy Research and Development Funding Priorities:

Respondents were informed that Congress is presently making decisions on the federal budget for the next fiscal year. With this as a back drop, they were asked about five energy research and development (R&D) programs: renewable energy (i.e., solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric power); nuclear power; technologies to improve energy efficiency and conservation; fossil fuels such as oil, gasoline, and coal; and natural gas. People were asked which of these programs should receive the highest priority for funding in DOE's research and development budget.

Renewable energy programs receive the most public support for R&D funding priorities (32%) followed by energy efficiency and conservation (28%) for a combined total of 60%. By comparison, only 10% cite natural gas as their first priority for federal R&D funding, followed by other fossil fuels (8%), and nuclear power (6%). About 16% of the respondents did not select one of the offered responses. Thus, nearly three-quarters (72%) of those who expressed a preference among the proffered choices (60% out of 84%), select either DOE's renewable energy or energy efficiency R&D programs.

Support for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs cuts across political party lines; among those expressing a preference, 72% of Republicans, 71% of Democrats, and 76% of Independents choose these technologies as their top priorities.

This suggests an even greater level of support for these technologies than the last time this same question was posed question to voters. In a November 1996 survey of 1,200 registered voters conducted by Research/Strategy/Management (R/S/M) for the Sustainable Energy Coalition, 66% of those with a preference selected either DOE's renewable energy or energy efficiency R&D programs. Similar levels of support were found in surveys conducted in December 1995 and December 1994 by R/S/M for the Sustainable Energy Coalition.

DOE Energy Research and Development Cuts Priorities:

When the topic shifts to budgetary cuts, the public focuses on two of these programs: nuclear power and fossil fuels. Nearly a third of the respondents (32%) select nuclear power as the first R&D program that should be subject to budget cuts followed by fossil fuels (22%) for a combined total of 54%. By comparison, 8% select renewable energy programs as the first that should be subject to budget cuts followed by natural gas (8%). Only 4% of respondents feel that energy efficiency programs should be the first subject to budget cuts. About a quarter of respondents (26%) did not express a preference among the proffered choices (which may indicate that a large segment of the public is not conversant with sustainable energy issues). Thus, nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) expressing a preference among the proffered choices (54% out of 74%) recommend cutting funding for either nuclear power or fossil fuel programs first.

Again, these views were bipartisan and consistent regardless of the respondent's political affiliation; among those expressing a preference, 69% of Republicans, 75% of Democrats, and 78% of Independents select either nuclear power or fossil fuels as their first choice for budget cuts.

Though close to the margin of error, this survey suggests even less support for funding nuclear power and fossil fuel programs than when this same question was posed in the Sustainable Energy Coalition's earlier public opinion surveys. In its November 1996 survey, only 69% of respondents with a preference chose nuclear power or fossil fuels as their top priorities for budget cuts as opposed to the current finding of 74%.

Public sentiment on energy funding can be further gauged by subtracting the percentage of voters favoring budget cuts for a specific technology (i.e., answer to the second question) from the percentage of voters favoring funding for that same technology (i.e., answer to the first question). This provides a weighted score of 24.6 for energy efficiency, 24.2 for renewable energy, 2.1 for natural gas, -14.6 for fossil fuels, and -26.5 for nuclear power.

SURVEY QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES

Q.1 Energy Budget - Funding Priorities: Congress is presently making decisions on whether to increase, decrease, or maintain funding levels in the next fiscal year for all programs and services supported by the federal government. Take the Department of Energy, for example. It has five spending areas for research and development that are under review ... Which one of these programs, if any, do you think should receive the highest priority for funding?

Renewable energy: involving solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric power
32.3%
(Rep. 31.6%; Dem. 29.7%; Ind. 38.0%)

Technologies to improve energy efficiency and conservation
28.2%
(Rep. 26.2%; Dem. 29.7%; Ind. 27.3%)

Natural gas
9.7%
(Rep. 7.9%; Dem. 13.3%; Ind. 6.8%)

Fossil fuels such as oil, gasoline, and coal
7.5%
(Rep. 5.6%; Dem. 7.7%; Ind. 7.8%)

Nuclear power
5.9%
(Rep. 9.1%; Dem. 3.8%; Ind. 6.0%)

None
2.9%
(Rep. 4.9%; Dem. 2.3%; Ind. 1.3%)

Don't Know
12.2%
(Rep. 12.8%; Dem. 12.1%; Ind. 11.8%)

Refused
1.4%
(Rep. 1.9%; Dem. 1.5%; Ind. 1.0%)

Q.2 Energy Budget - Cuts Priorities: Which one of these programs, if any, do you think should be subject to funding cuts in the Department of Energy's research and development budget?

Nuclear Power
32.4%
(Rep. 27.5%; Dem. 34.0%; Ind. 35.5%)

Fossil fuels such as oil, gasoline, and coal
22.1%
(Rep. 22.4%; Dem. 21.7%; Ind. 23.9%)

Renewable energy: involving solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric power
7.9%
(Rep. 9.7%; Dem. 8.4%; Ind. 5.8%)

Natural gas
7.6%
(Rep. 8.7%; Dem. 7.2%; Ind. 6.1%)

Technologies to improve energy efficiency and conservation
3.6%
(Rep. 3.6%; Dem. 2.9%; Ind. 4.4%)

None
5.1% (Rep. 6.3%; Dem. 4.0%; Ind. 5.1%)

Don't Know
19.3%
(Rep. 19.4%; Dem. 20.3%; Ind. 17.3%)

Refused
2.0%
(Rep. 2.4%; Dem. 1.5%; Ind. 2.0%)

Q.3 Energy Budget - Kyoto Protocol: Sometime over the next few years, the United States Senate will consider whether to ratify an international treaty to combat global warming caused in large part by greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Which of the following two statements comes closer to your view regarding federal support?

(1) In order to curb these emissions, we should increase federal support for energy efficiency and renewable energy now, whether or not the United States ratifies this proposed treaty.

(2) We should not increase federal support for these programs until the United States ratifies this proposed treaty.

Increase federal support now ...
49.1%
(Rep. 43.4%; Dem. 51.5%; Ind. 54.0%)

Wait until the treaty is ratified ...
37.4%
(Rep. 44.1%; Dem. 35.1%; Ind. 34.4%)

Don't Know
11.7%
(Rep. 10.4%; Dem. 12.3%; Ind. 9.5%)

Refused
1.8%
( Rep. 2.0%; Dem. 1.1%; Ind. 2.1%)

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Written by: Sustainable Energy Coalition


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