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Energy policy is shaped by what you think about energy

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Friend of the blog Sheril Kirshenbaum has a piece up over at NPR’s 13.7 blog about energy perception and policy reality (link). Her point? That what the public thinks about energy – what they want, think they want, or think they know – shapes the decisions politicians make about energy and environmental policy:

Personal attitudes, concerns, and priorities are determined by more than just “the facts.” We take into account stories in the media, the talking points of politicians, vocal celebrities and religious leaders, as well as the opinions of family and friends. All of these perspectives flow together to, in the aggregate, influence which energy issues our representatives — regional and national — address through policy and legislation.

Which can be maddening! In a perfect world, the electorate would be fully informed and rationale and able to discern between distorted facts and messaging campaigns by lobbies and political action committees and those with the loudest bullhorns. The truth is, not everyone dedicates their time to understanding the ins-and-outs of energy technology and policy.

But as Sheril points out, what we think about energy and the environment – gas prices, clean water, GMO crops, transportation, whatever – is the critical piece in determining our energy policy.

When I asked if climate change should have been included in the first presidential debate, I was also indirectly asking if this was an issue the electorate has been pushing its representatives to address. Is this a topic that’s on everyone’s minds? We’ll see what happens after the second presidential debate Tuesday night, which will focus on foreign and domestic policy. The debate is a town hall format, so we’ll have some sort of pulse on what issues are on the minds of the electorate this time around.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. geojellyroll 11:31 am 10/16/2012

    Huh.. Therefore what?

    People are influenced by the culture around them. This applies to anything and everything.

    “In a perfect world, the electorate would be fully informed and rationale”…..thank goodness this isn’t so. It assumes that there is some type of ‘truth’. Whose truth? Science is the antithesis of arriving at truth.

    Link to this

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