Public Sends Mixed Signals on Energy Policy

At a time of rising energy prices, the public continues to be conflicted in its overall approach toward energy and the environment. A majority of Americans say that developing new sources of energy, rather than protecting the environment, is the more important priority for the country. However, when asked specifically about energy policy priorities, 55% favor more conservation and regulation of energy, compared with 35% who support expanded energy exploration.

As in recent years, specific policies that address both energy and the environment draw overwhelming support. Nine-in-ten Americans favor requiring better auto fuel efficiency standards, while substantial majorities also support increased federal funding for alternative energy (81%) and mass transportation (72%).

By contrast, there is greater division over other energy policies. A majority (57%) favors increased federal funding on ethanol research, but support has fallen over the past two years (from 67% in February 2006).

The public continues to be almost evenly split over the idea of promoting more nuclear power (48% oppose vs. 44% favor). And a majority (53%) opposes giving tax cuts to energy companies to do more oil exploration.

With gas prices already high and expected to increase, the public overwhelmingly rejects boosting gas taxes to encourage carpooling and energy conservation. By greater than three-to-one (75% to 22%), Americans oppose raising gas taxes.

The latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 20-24 among 1,508 adults, finds continued public divisions over drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Currently, 50% oppose drilling in the Alaska refuge while 42% are in favor. As recently as September of 2005, 50% of Americans favored allowing drilling in ANWR, while 42% were opposed.

Read the full report Public Sends Mixed Signals on Energy Policy on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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