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Gallup Finds Americans Prioritize Energy Over Environment for First Time in 10 Years of Poll Question

Americans are more likely to say the US should prioritize development of energy supplies than to say it should prioritize protecting the environment, according to a recent Gallup poll. This is the first time in this question’s 10-year history that more have favored energy production over environmental protection.

The 4-7 March Gallup poll was conducted a few weeks before President Obama came out in favor of oil exploration off some sections of the US coast (earlier post), and shortly after he advocated the expanded use of nuclear power in the United States.

The current data represent a continuing shift in opinion toward energy production, Gallup said. Since 2007, when Americans’ preferences for environmental protection were the greatest (58% to 34%), Americans’ opinions have shown significant movement each year in the direction of prioritizing energy production. This change has been evident among nearly every major demographic subgroup, although self-identified liberals have remained relatively steadfast in saying the environment should be a higher priority.

Click to enlarge.

At the same time, Americans continue to advocate greater energy conservation by consumers (52%) over greater production of oil, gas, and coal supplies (36%) as a means of solving the nation’s energy problems. Americans have always come out in favor of greater consumer conservation, though this year marks the highest percentage favoring production (by a percentage point) in the last 10 years.

Other findings:

  • 33% describe the energy situation in the United States as “very serious,” down from 42% last year and the lowest since 2005.
  • 45% expect the US to face a critical energy shortage in the next five years, down sharply from 62% in 2008, when gas prices were soaring, and the lowest Gallup has measured in the last 10 years.

Gallup suggested that one possible explanation for the greater public priority on energy production at a time of diminished concern about energy is that Americans typically become somewhat less likely to say they favor environmental protection during down economic times. In the same March 4-7 poll, Gallup also found a new high in the percentage of Americans favoring economic growth over environmental protection.

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted 4-7 March 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.



Complete energy independence for America is the cause of our generation; our survival and existence depends on it. Our national security & economic security (what's left of it anyway) is at stake. Let the third world & communist countries fight the next oil wars - keep America out of it.


We are seeing the adjustment away from the old climate campaign to the far more acceptable energy independence campaign. Climate change failed because it refused to moderate its excess. Had the message been tempered, and not emotionally oversold, it may have worked.

The need for renewable energy remains. It is in fact the key to energy independence. And as most other nations well know, the cost of reliance on fossil energy will only increase as resources grow more scarce. This is not just energy independence for the US - it is energy independence for the planet. China has just as much reason to convert to renewables as any other nation. They already import vast quantities of coal and oil and it costs them greatly to do so.


When oil was dead cheap and the majority was locally produced, we didn't fret much about energy supplies and independence. Gas and heating oil at under $0.30/gallon was nothing to write home about.

When oil went from extreemly low price of about $2.50/barrel to $140.00+/barrel and importation went over 66%, energy supplies and independence righly gained importance. With peak oil and $200/barrel just under the horizon, more and more people will (falsely or rightly) think that energy supplies and independence is a priority.

What we are really worried about is the transistion from oil addiction to newer cleaner sources of energy. We will never be out of energy but we do not like changes. We got so used to dirty coal fired power plants and dirty ICE vehicles that we cannot imagine living in a world with clean energy sources and electrified vehicles. We are afraid to lose our comfort level (obtained with cheap fossil coal, gas and oil) by changing to renewable but probably more expensive clean energy sources.

Resistance to change seems to be genetically inherited.

Stan Peterson

I, like the US majority, think the Eco-Loons and their fevered, religious, Gaian, Green, hysteria is overdone.

They have impeded creating genuine energy production for way too long with their cockeyed windmills and solar ideas. These have proven to be figments of their fevered brows, that are wholly un-economic, produce little to no energy. They have now both been shown to pollute as much or more than other sources, as well.

It is past time to get realistic, and build some genuine power plants and infrastructure in the grids, and synthetic fuel manufacturing plants. (bio-diesel, GTL, CTL, and nonfood bio-ethanols).


Climate change was not only emotionally oversold, those who over sold it wanted to create massive, crippling costs (carbon zero) for the power industry rather than aim first for energy independence by and with renewable energy.

The dwindling availability of fossil fuels is an international, planet wide problem, and we should be leading the world in energy independence, not self destructing.


The world will survive and even be much healthier when fossil energy sources run out.

Fossil energy sources will run out within one century or so.

There are many other sustainable cleaner energy sources. We already have or will soon have the technologies to produce cleaner energy almost as cheaply as with coal, oil and NG.


High energy costs are not the cause of this recession and economic recovery will see oil prices jump. So, it's odd to see the recession linked to this change in public opinion.
Conservation is finally being considered. When auto companies keep improving milage, for example, people see that conservation does not mean lower quality of life. Now if we would only insulate buildings better and build for passive solar, e.g.


Carbon zero wouldn't be very difficult to reach if nuclear power hadn't been stymied for so long. We're seeing a resurgence (due in part by a change of heart on the part of some of its opponents), but it's very late in the game.

The major culprit in this recession is indeed oil prices, proven time and time again by the recessions which followed previous oil-price spikes. Whenever the USA suffers a big enough trade imbalance, the lack of credit to buy imports leads to a recession. The only way to stay out of continued economic contraction is to shift the economy away from imports, not just Chinese manufactured goods but also oil.

Henry Gibson

Anyone who writes comments to this site has far more wealth than most of the human inhabitants of the earth; most of whom would eat the last dog on the planet to survive another day.

The mother who sends her children to sleep starving will not worry that the CO2 her small fire produces will raise the ocean levels 0.000000XXX1 feet in twenty years if she survives for that long. The speculators in oil prices and others have caused the demise of millions of such children.

Human beings are part of the natural process of the earth, so any heating or cooling of the earth is just as natural as billions of tonnes of methanogenic bacteria pumping methane and CO2 into the air.

Helen Keller said something similar to:

"Security is a superstition. Bye and large the children of men do not experience security. Life is a daring adventure or nothing." ..HG..


EP: I do not agree that oil price is the major reason for the last economic crisis. Wall Street, Banks, Wars and the Administration, all pushing for unsustainable economic growth (at all cost) created the spiral rise in home prices that had to eventually fall back. When home values fell 50% and more, millions could not pay their loans and taxes. The snowball effect, bankrupted many banks, factories, airlines etc.

Countries without this real estate bubble, did not have the same crisis. Canada is an example; with a much smaller real estate bubble and a much smaller financial crisis.

Government will have to avoid future bubbles and better regulate Wall Street, Speculators, banking and insurance institutions. It is not easy to do in a wild market economy.


Harvey, look at the recessions of the late 70's, after Gulf War I, and following every other major oil-price spike. They follow like clockwork. The housing bubble is an independent factor, and would have been popped by the peak-oil spike had it occurred in 2002 instead of 2008.


EP: I must agree with you that most oil price bubbles were followed by some kind of financial crisis and seem to be one of the main trigger. However, there are many other financial crisis triggers or related bubbles.

The electronic technologies bubble created financial havoc about 10 years before the latest real estate bubble. Those two did not need an oil price bubble to incur serious economic damages.

What will be the next (non oil related) bubble? There is a worldwide debt bubble coming up. Argentina, Island, Ireland and Greece may be the first of many more victims to come. When a country, state and province (and their inhabitants) spend 10+% more than their revenues, year after year, their debt quickly rises above 100% of their yearly revenues creating the environment for a debt bubble. Many industrial countries are approaching that critical point. If the current trend is not reversed, 10 to 20 more countries may be in the debt bubble area by 2015/2020.

Pulling out of a debt bubble is not easy because 2 of the 3 normal cures hurt i.e. (reducing services, increasing taxes and/or stimulating higher growth). The first two cures normally create more unemployment followed by reduced growth rate i.e. the perfect recipe for a long lasting recession. Politicians will normally elect to go deeper in debt and the bubble will get bigger and bigger until it bursts. Will a massive worldwide vehicle electrification program and the aggressive production of clean energy be enough to avoid or postpone the next debt bubble without creating another one?


The tulip bubble didn't need oil, either. These things are completely unrelated to energy resources.

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