U.S. Public Opinion on Generations Options

Numerous opinion surveys have been conducted over the last few years into public attitudes towards different generation options. Rather than include multiple links to those surveys, we considered it would be most useful to include a link to the one which we believe has the most credibility.

The information was gathered in a series of surveys conducted, over a ten year period, by the MIT Energy Initiative and the Harvard University Center on the Environment, in what the researchers involved describe as "the most comprehensive and prolonged assessment of American public opinion about energy". The researchers compared many different generation types —from traditional fuels such as coal and oil to less widely used energy sources such as solar and wind power—to determine what Americans believe, what they know, and what they want.

The information is presented in some detail in this article in the Boston Globe.

This page is however limited to a few key points.

First a summary from the research authors;

"What we found is that Americans have a good broad grasp of the tradeoffs required when it comes to energy, and considerable willingness to make them. They appreciate that wind and solar are cleaner than fossil fuels, and that it’s more expensive to generate electricity with oil and nuclear energy than with natural gas or coal. They have some mistaken ideas about cost, believing that large-scale wind or solar power is cheaper than it really is. However, when presented with the actual cost of providing electricity through these alternative sources, the public still prefers a substantial deployment of wind and solar to the status quo. And, contrary to what you might think from the political debate, Americans don’t really divide along partisan lines when it comes to their energy preferences."


And here is the data in graphical format;

Source: Stephen Ansolabehere and David M. Konisky.   Graphic by Olivia Hall for the Boston Globe


The most notable point about this is that it shows that 81 percent and 78 percent of the US public want to procure more of their energy from solar and wind respectively. These amounts are striking both for being so much more than for natural gas, coal, oil or nuclear but also because they are consistent with values seen in similar surveys undertaken around the world.

At the risk of stating the obvious -  the general public wants more of their electricity generated from renewable sources!