Monday, July 6, 2009

Miscommunication on Misperceptions

Part of the problem in this current Carbon or No-Carbon debate is a lack of a fundamental understanding of how we actually power our lights and fuel our cars and busses. The following excerpt of a recent survey sheds light on this situation:


Survey: Americans Underestimate Role of Oil, Gas in Meeting Demand

A new survey finds that while Americans now recognize that the US will need more energy in the coming years, they continue to underestimate the amount of oil and natural gas that will be needed to meet that demand. The poll, conducted for the American Petroleum Institute (API) by Harris Interactive, also shows that Americans overestimate the role that renewable energy sources like solar and wind power will play in meeting future demand. ..……. According to the poll results, Americans understand that US energy demand will increase during the next 20 years, but they discount the role that fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal will play in meeting demand.

While the federal government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that US energy demand will increase 9% during the next 20 years, only 5% of survey’s respondents chose the correct answer. The majority overestimated this number, believing that US demand would increase 16% to 21%. When asked what percentage of global energy demand will be met by fossil fuels according to government projections, only 10% of respondents gave the correct answer of 85%. Americans understand fundamentally that we need more energy to grow our economy but they continue to undervalue oil and natural gas in meeting expected demand.

The EIA projects that more than 55% of US energy demand in 2030 will be met by oil and natural gas, but only 16% of respondents correctly recognized this. Those surveyed also overestimate the amount of oil and natural gas supplied to the US by the Persian Gulf countries and underestimate the amount that is supplied from North America.

According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), 12% of the oil consumed last year in the US came from the Persian Gulf countries. However, more than 40% of the poll’s respondents believed that over 30% of US supplies came from the Gulf. More than 50% of respondents believed that Saudi Arabia was the largest US supplier of imported crude oil, when in fact Canada is the top supplier.


Our public servants have done a tremendous disservice during this debate. It is clear that the American public wants to believe there is a silver bullet answer to our energy challenges, despite what are pretty clear facts. Those on one side of this issue would have you believe that alternative energy sources are the solutions. This just serves to feed common misperceptions regarding how the energy industry operates and how we’ll generate the energy we’ll need to meet future expanding needs.

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