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Plugged In

More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives

A Tale of Two Energy Priorities – Told In Charts


I like charts. And I like to tell stories through charts. So let's begin...

According to the latest data from the UT Energy Poll, here's where Americans most want to see their tax dollars spent:

Not surprisingly, job creation is a high priority. Fair enough. (Energy” ranks last, with slightly fewer votes than “other,” but that’s a topic for another day). Now we'll look a bit closer...

These are the perceived benefits most associated with natural gas production (note these survey responses were not mutually exclusive):

And next, the perceived benefits most associated with renewables:

Now back to tax dollar priorities. If job creation is valued most and natural gas production is perceived as a job creator, there's going to be a fair amount of public support behind expanding it. (Hence the current energy transition). However, given that just four percent of Americans rank the environment as a top priority, the development and adoption of renewable technologies may be limited.

What's important to keep in mind is that "perceived" benefits do not necessarily reflect reality. It's true that renewables may lead to a cleaner environment, but they also create jobs and are certainly involved in boosting American innovation, economic growth, and competitiveness.

Public attitudes on both topics reflect the way we have been framing them. In the case of renewables, it may be time to change the conversation.

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

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