Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deloitte Survey: Seventy-Three Percent of Voters Say America on the Wrong Track

/PRNewswire/ -- Voters feel the country is headed in the wrong overall direction by a five-to-one margin, according to a national survey from Deloitte's Oil & Gas industry group.

The Deloitte survey also identified the four most urgent issues facing the new presidential administration: the nation's economy, 84 percent; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 39 percent; health care, 26 percent; and energy, 19 percent (multiple responses were permitted; numbers do not add up to 100 percent).

The survey placed a special focus on the national energy situation, which voters believe is on the wrong track by a three-to-one margin -- 79 percent claiming that the nation's energy situation is in worse shape now than five years ago.

The survey shows that Americans have a particular passion for renewable energy, but may not realize the need for more hydrocarbons like oil and gas, which are projected to account for the majority of the world's transportation fuels through 2030. Given this fact, the new presidential administration could face a challenge meeting the public's short-term aspirations for renewable energy.

"It's clear from our survey that most voters believe renewable energy is the way of the future," said Gary Adams, vice chairman, oil and gas, Deloitte LLP. "While this is very important, many voters may not understand the current costs and complexities of developing renewable energy."

In the survey, renewables like solar power and wind power have an 86 percent favorability rating, consistent across all age and education groups. Moreover, a plurality of voters (41 percent) believe renewable energy is the cheapest type of energy today, with an additional 10 percentage points (51 percent overall) claiming renewable energy will be the cheapest energy source 25 years from now.

In contrast, the percentage of voters surveyed who believe oil and gas is currently the cheapest energy source trails renewables by 25 points (16 percent feel oil and gas is currently a cheap energy source). What is more, the percentage trails renewables by a full 45 points when voters look into the future (6 percent believe oil and gas will be a cheap energy source 25 years from now).

Adams points out that there is confusion among voters about the real costs of renewable energy sources. "Right now, renewables simply are not as cheap as fossil fuels, which adds to the challenge of satisfying the public's desire to move away from conventional oil and gas in a short time period."

When it comes to sustainability, oil and gas decline even further in voters' minds: 25 percent surveyed say oil and gas are a sustainable energy source today, but only 8 percent say the same will be true 25 years from now -- a 17 point drop.

Adams points out that America urgently needs a comprehensive energy policy that will promote investment in the development of economical alternative fuels, such as renewables and, at the same time, encourage local exploration and production of oil and gas to bridge to the gap to the future.

"The world will be primarily reliant on fossil fuels for at least two generations -- the bridge to tomorrow's new energy future depends on this. The key is to have a sensible plan to transition to a new, cleaner energy era. It is also clear that the oil and gas industry needs to do more to educate the public on the challenges ahead."

Deloitte's survey offers a few clues as to how voters would like go about this transition. First and foremost, voters widely agree on requiring more stringent and mandatory fuel economy standards for all cars sold in America. Most voters, especially younger ones, are also in favor of funding major clean energy projects despite high costs.

Surprisingly, the survey showed that oil and gas are viewed with less outright disdain than one might assume: Conventional oil and gas generally enjoy two-to-one support as an energy source among all voters surveyed, although the level of support is highest among those over the age of 55. At least one in three voters prefers using fossil fuels more efficiently rather than moving away from them. Older voters are also in favor of building new refineries to produce more gasoline.

Still, voters are increasingly skeptical about the longevity of oil and gas as an energy solution. While they are evenly split over whether oil and gas are a short-term or medium-term solution for fulfilling America's energy needs, a mere 10 percent think oil and gas are a long-term solution.

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