New York, NY, June 3, 2008 — Ninety percent of Americans have made changes in their daily lives to counter higher energy prices, according to an annual energy survey released by RBC Capital Markets, an energy investment bank. And while six out of 10 say they would rather pay more for cleaner fuels, an almost equal number of Americans (58 percent) say it is more important to keep the green in their wallets than to participate in green initiatives.
The national survey of 1,007 U.S. respondents, released in conjunction with RBC Capital Markets’ annual North American Energy Conference, found that in response to higher prices at the pump, 76 percent of those polled said they are driving less, 19 percent are using or plan to take public transportation more often and 11 percent have made or are considering carpool arrangements. Four out of 10 workers said they have considered moving closer to their place of work in order to save on transportation costs, and 82 percent of respondents said they will consider buying a hybrid when they purchase their next vehicle.
Even Americans with incomes of more than $100,000 are feeling the energy pinch, with 48 percent saying they are dining out less often and 21 percent saving less for retirement.
“The issues Americans are facing as a result of the current energy crisis have prompted not only a change in their attitudes, but also changes in their actual behavior as they try to manage the impact on their daily lives,” said Kurt Hallead, director of global energy research for RBC Capital Markets.
When asked how their summer vacation plans have been altered, half said they are either staying locally or are not vacationing at all. Almost two-thirds of Americans said they would support a “holiday,” or repeal, of the federal gas tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Of this group, none said they would drive less, and nearly 20 percent said they would actually drive more because they could afford to.
Americans’ “not-in-my-backyard” (NIMBY) perspective also appears to be waning. Only 16 percent of Americans said that they would oppose the construction of any type of energy plant or facility in their hometown, down from 23 percent in 2007. Seventy-one percent of Americans said they would support an alternative-energy system in their hometown, including a wind or solar facility, up from 58 percent last year; 34 percent would support a clean coal technology plant (up from 27 percent last year); 32 percent would support a liquefied natural gas facility (up from 25 percent last year); and 21 percent would support a nuclear power plant (up from 17 percent). Nevertheless, the survey found that although a majority of Americans attribute the rapid rise in gas prices to a lack of oil refining capacity in the U.S., eight out of 10 said they oppose the construction of an oil refinery in their hometown.
“Americans are feeling the pain of soaring energy prices and it appears they are actually beginning to grasp the severity of our energy dependence,” added Hallead. “The dilemma has always been that the public want solutions to the country’s energy problems, but not solutions that would overly impinge on their day-to-day lives. That is starting to change and people are taking action.”
Notwithstanding all the changes Americans are making, compared with last year, respondents are far less optimistic about solving the country’s energy woes. When asked if the U.S. will “find a solution to its energy problems in your lifetime,” 66 percent of survey respondents said no, up from 42 percent last year. Even so, eight out of 10 Americans polled said they will consider a candidate’s stand on energy issues in this year’s presidential election, an increase from about five out of 10 in 2004.
“Although it’s disheartening that Americans are more pessimistic about our energy problems, it’s promising that people are more in tune with what needs to be done to help solve the myriad energy issues we are facing as a country,” said Marc Harris, RBC Capital Markets’ co-head of global research.
Other highlights of the survey include:
* Ninety-three percent of Americans agree the U.S. needs to find ways to produce more of its own oil rather than rely so much on foreign oil sources, while 59 percent said that oil drilling should be allowed in the North Atlantic and Pacific coastal areas or the Arctic.
* When respondents were asked, “How far would you drive to save 20 cents on a gallon of gas?” — one out of five said they would drive 10 miles or more to save 20 cents per gallon.
* Six out of 10 of those surveyed said they believe that their personal activities have a meaningful impact on global warming, yet 20 percent admitted they are not taking any steps to reduce their own carbon footprint.
* More than half (54 percent) of survey respondents disagreed with the idea of taxing Americans who drive SUVs or other gas-guzzling vehicles not required to perform their job.
The RBC survey was conducted May 17-23, 2008, and included 1,007 online respondents. Global Market Insite Inc. assisted RBC Capital Markets in the survey. The margin of error was plus or minus 2 percent.
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