Survey Says Savings Motivate Energy Conservation

The majority of middle-class Americans wants to use less energy but is more likely to act if the change will save them money, according to a national survey on energy conservation released by the Burton G. Bettingen Foundation.

Seventy-three percent of respondents indicated that they were concerned or very concerned about energy conservation. Nearly half (46 percent) indicated that they see energy conservation as a way to save money.

The survey was commissioned to gauge attitudes about energy consumption among middle-income Americans and to determine what average Americans might be willing to do to increase energy conservation in their daily lives.

"We believe that there are small steps that every American can take that would have a tremendous cumulative impact on our national energy consumption," Foundation president George O’Neill, Jr. said. "While most are driven by the current economic crisis, a significant number also want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. These two factors combined should serve as real motivators for using less energy and fuel."

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said that they see energy conservation as a way to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

The survey identified the four most common behaviors that Americans are currently doing to use less energy and fuel:

• turning off lights

• adjusting thermostats

• keeping tires inflated

• changing HVAC filters

The four things respondents are not currently doing, but are most willing to consider are:

• buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle

• using major appliances during non-peak times

• reducing car idling

• walking or bicycling more often

Almost half are not willing to carpool to get where they need to go.

"Our research shows that a number of barriers make carpooling an unlikely solution to reducing fuel consumption in the United States," said Bruce Tonn, researcher at the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment at the University of Tennessee. Tonn noted a number of reasons why people do not want to carpool, ranging from irregular work schedules to a need to run personal errands. "This study indicates that the resistance to carpooling is not going to change anytime soon, even with fluctuating fuel prices," he added.

Tonn, along with UT researcher Jean Peretz, co-authored a white paper commissioned by the Foundation, which identified the primary barriers that keep Americans from engaging in more energy efficient behaviors. The white paper identified three main categories of barriers: economic, social/psychological, and technology adaptation.

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