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Getting From Magical To Practical

by Scott Bittle

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Americans are ready to change the nation's energy policy – but are they ready to do what it takes to get there?

Nearly all Americans think energy policy is broken, with nine in 10 who say it needs either "fundamental changes" or should be "completely rebuilt," according to a new CBS/New York Times survey. Clearly, there's a consensus that change is needed.

But what kind of change? In the same survey, 59 percent said it was at least "somewhat likely" that the United States will develop an alternative to oil within the next 25 years. But half (51 percent) said they would oppose raising gas taxes to pay for developing renewable energy, rising to 65 percent when a tax of $1 per gallon was mentioned.

The poll results are not that different from what Public Agenda found in our Energy Learning Curve™ public opinion research, which revealed a great deal of consensus on solutions, and at the same time, a strong sense that anything that increases the cost of driving is off the table for the public.

The challenge for leaders will be how to move the public from supporting change to backing practical steps to make it happen. Increasing the cost of driving isn't the only option for changing how we get energy, but all the options require choices on both technology and economics. The CBS/Times survey shows one bargain the public isn't willing to make. Now we have to find the bargains that will fly.

To learn more about the choices we face, check out Who Turned Out The Lights? Your Guided Tour To The Energy Crisis and join the discussion on Facebook and on @TheEnergyBook, our energy feed on Twitter.


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