Survey: Americans eager to reduce their energy use

Jan 14, 2009

Many Americans have already taken action to reduce their energy use and many others would do the same if they could afford to, according to a national survey conducted by Yale and George Mason universities.

Roughly half of the 2,164 American adults surveyed last September and October said they had already taken important steps to make their homes more energy-efficient, and a substantial number -- between 10 and 20 percent -- said they planned to take action over the next year. Almost two-thirds of the respondents said that they would like to buy a fuel-efficient car, but over a third said they can't afford one.

"Overall, many Americans are ready, willing and able to save energy at home and on the road. Many others are ready and willing, but need some help," said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change and lead investigator on the survey. "A national strategy to conserve energy and invest in energy efficiency will find the American people a willing partner."

While saving money is by far the most common reason why people take energy-saving actions -- including insulating their attic, caulking and weather-stripping their home, setting their thermostats to more energy-efficient levels and buying a more fuel-efficient car -- large numbers of respondents said they were also motivated to reduce global warming, by the desire to act morally, and by taking energy-saving actions that made them feel good about themselves. By more than a 2-to-1 margin, respondents also said they believe that making changes to reduce their energy use will improve -- not diminish -- the quality of their lives.

"These data make clear that large numbers of Americans are eager to use less energy and that they have many and varied reasons for doing so," said Edward Maibach, professor and director of George Mason's Center for Climate Change Communication and co-principal investigator on the research. "We think this survey also lays to rest the notion that Americans feel that saving energy somehow involves sacrifice. Quite the contrary, far more people believe that saving energy will improve the quality of their lives."

The survey also reveals much about the energy-efficiency and energy conservation barriers of greatest concern to large numbers of Americans. The significant upfront financial costs -- simply not being able to afford to take the recommended action -- is by far the most pervasive barrier to improving energy efficiency in American homes and cars. This is especially true for people who currently have completely serviceable, albeit energy-inefficient, home heating and cooling units or cars.

The report concludes that reducing this barrier "may require developing a different financial model (to help people to take these actions); for example, the way mobile phone providers eliminate upfront costs by financing the cost of the phone through the monthly service fees."

The survey, "Saving Energy at Home and on the Road: A Survey of Americans' Energy Saving Behaviors, Intentions, Motivations, and Barriers," was funded by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, the Surdna Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, and the Pacific Foundation. Respondents to the survey completed two separate questionnaires, two weeks apart, using the nationally representative online panel of Knowledge Networks. The margin of error for the survey was +/- 2 percent.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from: climatechange.gmu.edu .

Source: Yale University

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User comments : 3

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GrayMouser
5 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2009
Well that's a skewed survey. "Already done" doesn't tell you anything. If 40% of your respondents list that you know nothing about if it was done recently, a long time ago, or ever done (people lie in surveys.)
joex
5 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2009
Eliminate upfront costs? You mean like a car lease...or a fully financed purchase? I think I heard about those, see if I can dig up that obscure source.

Mobile phone companies can give away free phones for two reasons: 1) they don't pay MSRP so it's not really a $500 loss to them, and 2) they lock you into a 2 year contract. A car lease may be made more profitable if you agree to use the same manufacturer after your lease is up, or risk paying a "termination" fee. This could reduce not only the upfront costs (allowing more people $0 down), but also monthly payments, since they can expect to get profits for 6 years instead of 3 from the same customer -- or a lump sum payment at the end of 3 years. Just an idea.
RogerB34
not rated yet Jan 24, 2009
I'm skeptical of eager to reduce energy. If the action requires personal effort beyond CFL's - slim to no chance. If action requires buying a product or service, way down the priority list. Habits formed many years ago are not changed easily. 2008: 3,317 kWh, 236 therms natural gas for hot water and heat. 2 persons 2200 sf 1969 tract home, San Diego, Ca. Furnace is original, well maintained, no plan to replace.