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U.S. consumers want national energy self-sufficiency, but say no to traditional energy plants in their back yards: RBC Capital Markets survey


While nine out of ten people said the U.S. needs to find ways to produce more of its own oil rather than rely so heavily on foreign sources and eight of ten said they were concerned about the country’s energy self-sufficiency, the vast majority of Americans oppose the construction of oil refineries or other traditional energy plants in their city or town, according to an annual energy survey released today by RBC Capital Markets, one of North America’s leading energy investment banks.

The national survey of 1,001 Americans was released in conjunction with RBC Capital Markets’ annual Energy Conference being held in New York today and tomorrow. It shows that 84 per cent opposed the construction of an oil refinery in their hometown, 83 per cent opposed the construction or re-commissioning of a nuclear power plant and three out of four opposed the construction of a liquefied natural gas facility in their city or town.

“We haven’t built a new refinery in the U.S. in almost three decades,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Kurt Hallead. “Clearly the ’Not In My Backyard’ phenomenon still prevails.”

The survey also found that compared to a year ago, Americans are far more concerned about global warming and climate change, and are increasingly conscious of the harm carbon dioxide emissions are causing. The majority of those polled (68 per cent) said they were in favor of carbon dioxide regulations, even if it meant higher energy costs, and 67 per cent said they would also pay more for cleaner fuels than pay less for fuels that pollute. Still, only a third say they are spending more time learning about what they can do and two-thirds admit they need to do more.

“It’s as if consumers are paralyzed by the magnitude of the problem, concerned about the price they will have to pay in their personal lives, and unsure that they can do anything about it,” said Hallead. “To me, it’s a clarion call for more public education. It’s the only way for policy makers to address a situation where everyone wants energy self-sufficiency but no new traditional energy plants.”

Moreover, while the vast majority of Americans support government activities to increase energy conservation programs, develop alternative energy incentives, and reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil, there is still resistance to policies or initiatives that intrude on Americans’ lifestyles or pocketbooks.

While the survey also found that Americans’ number one concern was the quality of life for the next generation, concern for gas prices took precedence over “quality of the air I breathe” and climate change — in large part because three quarters of respondents said it would be impossible to live their life as it is today without owning a car. Eight in ten (78 per cent) said they were concerned about the price of gas and if they could afford to drive. In fact, sixty-seven per cent felt that Americans are too concerned with how energy prices affect their wallets and are losing sight of protecting the environment.

“This crystallizes the dilemma faced by policy makers: the public clearly wants action, but not action that overly affects their way of life,” said Marc Harris, RBC Capital Markets’ Director of U.S. Equity Research. “One of the issues is getting people to practice what they preach. However, it was heartening to see that almost 70 per cent said they would consider a hybrid car in their next purchase and 58 per cent of SUV owners said they will try and buy a hybrid next time.”

On the issue of alternative energy, a resounding 87 per cent said the U.S. government needs to act immediately to encourage and reinforce the development of alternative energy sources with subsidies and incentives. Six in ten people said they would sanction the construction of a solar plant in their hometown and more than half (57 per cent) would endorse the construction of wind turbines in their hometowns.

Other highlights of the survey include:

Three-quarters (74 per cent) of Americans said they would consider a candidate’s stand on energy issues when voting in the 2008 presidential election, up from 49 per cent who did so in 2004

When asked, “Will the United States find a solution to its energy problems in your lifetime?” nearly six in ten (57 per cent) said “no.” Even the survey’s youngest respondents (18 to 24 years old) did not believe the nation would find a solution to its energy problems in their lifetimes, with close to half (48 per cent) expressing disbelief

Three-quarters said that companies who adopt and comply with environmentally friendly and energy efficient standards should receive a meaningful reduction in corporate taxes

One-third of SUV drivers said the publicity surrounding energy consumption and climate change has caused them to second-guess the benefits of owning an SUV.
The RBC Capital Markets survey was conducted May 11 - 18, 2007 and included 1,001 online respondents. InsightExpress assisted RBC Capital Markets in the survey. The margin of error was ±4.1 per cent.


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