Group: Survey Respondents Don't Know Real Costs of Renewables

A national survey released Dec. 10 from Deloitte's Oil & Gas industry group identified the four most urgent issues facing the new presidential administration: the nation's economy, 84 percent; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 39 percent; health care, 26 percent; and energy, 19 percent (multiple responses were permitted; numbers do not add up to 100 percent).

It focused on the national energy situation, which voters believe is on the wrong track by a three-to-one margin -- 79 percent claiming that the nation's energy situation is in worse shape now than five years ago.

The survey shows that Americans have a particular passion for renewable energy, but may not realize the need for more hydrocarbons like oil and gas, which are projected to account for the majority of the world's transportation fuels through 2030.

"It's clear from our survey that most voters believe renewable energy is the way of the future," said Gary Adams, vice chair, oil and gas, Deloitte LLP. "While this is very important, many voters may not understand the current costs and complexities of developing renewable energy."

In the survey, renewables like solar power and wind power have an 86 percent favorability rating, consistent across all age and education groups. Moreover, a plurality of voters (41 percent) believe renewable energy is the cheapest type of energy today, with an additional 10 percentage points (51 percent overall) claiming renewable energy will be the cheapest energy source 25 years from now.

In contrast, the percentage of those surveyed who believe oil and gas is currently the cheapest energy source trails renewables by 25 points (16 percent feel oil and gas is currently a cheap energy source). What is more, the percentage trails renewables by a full 45 points when voters look into the future (6 percent believe oil and gas will be a cheap energy source 25 years from now).

Adams points out that there is confusion among voters about the real costs of renewable energy sources. "Right now, renewables simply are not as cheap as fossil fuels, which adds to the challenge of satisfying the public's desire to move away from conventional oil and gas in a short time period."

When it comes to sustainability, oil and gas decline even further in voters' minds: 25 percent surveyed say oil and gas are a sustainable energy source today, but only 8 percent say the same will be true 25 years from now -- a 17 point drop.

Adams points out that America urgently needs a comprehensive energy policy that will promote investment in the development of economical alternative fuels, such as renewables and, at the same time, encourage local exploration and production of oil and gas to bridge to the gap to the future.

"The world will be primarily reliant on fossil fuels for at least two generations -- the bridge to tomorrow's new energy future depends on this. The key is to have a sensible plan to transition to a new, cleaner energy era. It is also clear that the oil and gas industry needs to do more to educate the public on the challenges ahead."

Deloitte conducted the national survey between Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, following the presidential election. It worked with the survey firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates to sample more than 1,000 registered voters online. The overall margin of error for the survey is ± 3.1 percent. For more information, visit www.deloitte.com/us/2008OilSurvey.

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