Majority of Americans Say Energy Crunch Very Serious

PRINCETON, New Jersey, May 14, 2001 (ENS) - An increasing number of Americans now believe the energy situation in the United States is "very serious," a new survey of public opinion has found.

In the last two months, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of those who say the energy situation is very serious - from 31 percent at the beginning of March to 58 percent in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted May 7 through 9.

The current 58 percent is the highest ever recorded in response to this question, according to the Gallup organization - significantly higher than the previous high point of 47 percent, recorded in August 1979.

The results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,005 adults, 18 years and older.

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Denver, Colorado rush hour. As Americans drive more miles, fuel consumption is increasing. (Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL))
Gas prices of up to $3 a gallon have been predicted for this summer and the poll found that almost six out of 10 people say the rising price of gasoline will force them to cut back on their summer travel plans.

Analyzing the survey for the Gallup organization, Frank Newport says, "The American public is apparently settling in for a possible long term increase in gas prices. A majority of Americans - 56 percent - say the recent rise in gas prices is "more permanent," and not just a "temporary fluctuation."

President George W. Bush is expected to release his energy strategy for the nation on Thursday. It will cover increasing sources of supply and ways to conserve energy.

This latest survey found a greater proportion of people want both more production and more conservation than a poll on the same topic found in March. Then, 56 percent favored conservation and 33 percent favored production, while only eight percent favored both.

The poll conducted last week found that 14 percent favored both, 47 percent favored conservation, and 35 percent want more production.

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This Connecticut house uses passive solar design to capture and store the Sun's heat, and solar photovoltaic cells to generate electricity and heat water. (Photo by Pamm McFadden courtesy NREL)
Large majorities of those questioned May 7-9 are in favor of mandating more energy efficient appliances, and more energy efficient buildings, while 91 percent told pollsters they favor investments in new sources of energy such as solar, wind and fuel cells.

Eighty-five percent of those questioned favor requiring more energy efficient cars by law. More than three in every four people favors a federal government partnership with the auto industry working towards energy efficient cars.

Such a partnership was created during the Clinton administration, and today coordinates the efforts of the major automakers and a wide range of other engineering talents to make and market a vehicle that goes 80 miles on a gallon of gas.

On the controversial issue of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling for oil, fewer of those polled support this action now than did in March. Then, 40 percent favored drilling in ANWR, with 56 percent opposed. Today 38 percent support the drilling, 57 percent are opposed.

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Building a pipeline through Alaska's frozen tundra (Photo courtesy Arctic Power)
Conservationists warn that drilling in this pristine wild region on Alaska's North Coast would destroy the ecosystem, but proponents of the drilling including Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham say it could be done with very little impact on the environment.

Increasing investment in gas pipelines was favored by a majority - 64 percent - of those questioned.

Increasing the use of nuclear reactors as a major source of power was also favored, but by a slim margin - 48 percent favor the move towards nuclear, and 44 percent are opposed.

While it is impossible to pinpoint the exact role energy plays in the public's perception of President Bush, Newport says, the poll shows that Bush's job approval rating is at 53 percent - identical to his late March rating, but down from his administration's high of 62 percent measured three weeks ago.