How Do Citizens and Experts See the Energy Issue?

Will Friedman, McKenna Morrigan and Alison Kadlec

The new research uncovers a serious barrier to advancing national dialogue on energy issues: the profound mismatch in how leaders and the public define the problem and think about solutions. The research is based on a series of focus groups across the country and interviews with experts on an array of energy issues.

For example, citizens primarily think about their own personal habits and consumption when the topic of “conservation” arises and assume that conserving means they will end up sacrificing comfort and convenience to reduce energy use. Meanwhile many experts say the nation could vastly increase energy efficiency through changes that would be nearly imperceptible to the average person. Many experts see this as a potential breakthrough, but one that is currently stalled.

Many citizens had a “strongly felt perception that ‘movers and shakers’ are either actively making matters worse or are simply abdicating responsibility and leaving problems to fester,” the report says. Energy experts had a more nuanced, although not entirely contradictory view. “Most experts saw the forces behind the energy leadership vacuum as a combination of the prevailing culture of partisanship and the corrupting influence of big money on public decision-making,” the report’s authors say.

The exploratory study was conducted on behalf of the Kettering Foundation.



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