The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication is out with a new survey, conducted in March 2012, on "Americans’ Actions to Conserve Energy, Reduce Waste, and Limit Global Warming." Key findings include:
- Although 56% of Americans say they're trying to reduce energy consumption, only 43% set the thermostat to 68 degrees or colder in the winter, a decline of 5 points since November 2011.
- The percentages of Americans who say they carpool, use public transportation, or bike have declined by 5-11 points since November 2011, to just 21%-30%.
- Only 29% of Americans say they'd like to and probably will "
change most of the light bulbs in your house to energy-efficiency compact fluorescent lights." This is down sharply from 44% who said they'd like to do change bulbs and probably would do so back in November 2008.
Clearly, based on these results, the message isn't getting through strongly enough on the importance of reducing energy inefficiency and waste. The result is that the country is lagging behind in implementing what is arguably the "biggest bang for the buck" in terms of energy savings and pollution reductions.
What can be done to change this situation? Clearly, government policy is not nearly where it needs to be in terms of encouraging energy efficiency measures, and should be strengthened considerably. What politicians should be doing -- but aren't doing aggressively enough, largely because the fossil fuel industries don't want them to - is passing legislation that encourages Americans to upgrade their homes, cars, and businesses in order to reduce energy waste.
Among other measures, this effort should certainly include aggressive efficiency standards time on homes, automobiles, appliances, and power plants. More broadly, the government should be considering ways to make it less attractive for individuals and businesses to waste energy or to use it inefficiently, while providing incentives for everyone to become more energy efficient. In the long run, that will save us all a great deal of money, while protecting our environment and enhancing our national security. Win, win, win.