When it comes to energy's environmental impact, Southerners think differently

Aug 06, 2014

Southerners are less likely than Americans in other parts of the country to believe that energy affects the environment by at least a fair amount, according to the latest findings of the University of Michigan Energy Survey.

A joint effort of the U-M Energy Institute and Institute for Social Research, the quarterly survey gauges consumer perceptions and beliefs about key energy-related concerns including affordability, reliability and impact on the .

When asked if energy affects the environment, "not at all," "a little," "a fair amount" or "a lot," 69 percent of Southerners chose the latter two answers. The choices of "a fair amount" or "a lot" were given by 77 percent of consumers in the Midwest, 79 percent in the West and 82 percent in the Northeast.

Southerners do not differ significantly from other regions in their responses to the survey's other questions concerning reliability or affordability and, on average, they pay about the same amount for home energy as the nation as a whole (Westerners pay the least).

"Although their perception of energy's impact on the environment is a bit less than the national average, the fraction of Southerners who believe that energy affects the environment by at least a fair amount still exceeds two-thirds," said survey director John DeCicco, a research professor at the U-M Energy Institute.

Nationwide, three-fourths of Americans believe that energy affects the environment either a fair amount or a lot, a finding that has held up over the three rounds of U-M Energy Survey data analyzed to date.

Other results from data collected through the latest include:

  • Consumers worry much less about the reliability of energy than they do about its affordability and impact on the environment.
  • Consumers consistently say that they worry about the impact of energy on the environment at least as much as they worry about affordability.
  • On average, Americans believe that gasoline would become unaffordable if it hit roughly $5.89 per gallon, a level about 70 percent higher than the U.S. average gasoline price of $3.44 per gallon for the months the survey was taken.
  • Consumers, on average, believe that a monthly home energy bill of roughly $400 would be unaffordable for their households, a level about 110 percent higher than (a bit more than double) the average self-reported energy bill of $190 per month.
  • Consumers appear to be notably more sensitive to increases in the price of gasoline than they are to increases in .

The U-M Energy Survey is administered four times a year through a set of questions added quarterly to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the same instrument that is the basis for the widely reported Index of Consumer Sentiment. The survey is conducted through telephone interviews of a nationally representative sample of roughly 500 households per month. Visit: http://energy.umich.edu/research/projects/university-michigan--survey

Explore further: Consumers worry about energy's impact on environment regardless of income

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