Majority of Americans support government action on energy security, poll shows

Audrey Zhang

A majority of Americans across the political spectrum say government and industry should cooperate to strengthen U.S. energy security, according to the semiannual UT Energy Poll.

The poll, released during UT’s Energy Week, surveyed 2,043 Americans on a variety of energy issues including energy security, climate change and hydraulic fracturing.

Poll director Sheril Kirshenbaum said energy security includes a wide variety of issues.

“Energy security has to do with making sure we have enough [resources] available to meet demand,” Kirshenbaum said in an email. “It can mean addressing our country’s energy vulnerabilities, such as terrorist targets or limiting railway accidents. All of this is important to safety and productivity.”

The poll showed a partisan divide on whether government or industries should take the lead on energy security. While a majority of Democrats and Republicans supported government-industry collaboration, 23 percent of Republicans said market forces should lead, compared with 14 percent of Democrats.

Dave Tuttle, research fellow at the UT Energy Institute, said such collaboration between industry and government could take many forms.

“Examples [of collaboration are] actions that secure domestic supply, agreements or standards that improve efficiency or reduce consumption,” Tuttle said. “[For example,] government funding for advanced research at universities that fosters innovation.”

Poll results showed that 73 percent of Americans think climate change is occurring, compared with 16 percent that do not. 

Maliha Mazhar, international business and government junior and communications director for the University Democrats, said the group supports current government strategy on climate change.

“We are proud that President Obama sees climate change as a scientific reality,” Mazhar said. “We support his energy strategy and believe it is imperative that we get global cooperation when tackling climate change.”

A representative for College Republicans did not respond to a request for comment.

The poll also examined attitudes on fracking, a process of drilling into the earth to extract oil and gas from rocks, and found that Americans were unfamiliar with this newer practice.

Kirshenbaum said the lack of knowledge reflects the need for more education. 

“Less than half of Americans are familiar with ‘fracking,’” Kirshenbaum said. “We have a long way to go on energy literacy initiatives to get the public up to speed on energy issues.”

More Americans are focusing on energy as a key issue in modern times, Tuttle said.

“Many believe energy is an increasingly important issue given climate, emissions and economic concerns,” Tuttle said. “If we want to maintain or hopefully improve our quality of life, we need to solve these issues.”