Americans are dubious about the country’s ability to reduce the amount of foreign oil it imports — and while they still believe in the safety of both nuclear power and offshore drilling, there is less support for both of those technologies in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll than there was a year ago.
About half the public regards nuclear power and offshore drilling for oil as safe sources of fuel, and more than a third sees each as unsafe. There is a greater division when it comes to the assessment of coal mining. There have been safety issues with all three energy sources in recent months: the tsunami damage and radiation leaks in the Fukuyama nuclear plant in Japan, last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the mining accident in Chile.
Generally speaking, do you think the following types of energy extraction or power production methods are safe or not safe?
|Very safe||Somewhat safe||Not too safe||Not at all safe||Not sure|
Nuclear power production
Offshore oil and natural gas drilling
Democrats regard all three as unsafe; Republicans believe the opposite.
If given the choice, more Americans would rather see increases in the production of renewable energy sources – solar and wind energy in particular — than favor more production of energy from nuclear power, oil or coal. About half support increased use of natural gas and biofuels.
Should the U.S. increase or decrease domestic energy production from the following sources?
|Increase||Keep the same||Decrease||Not sure|
But one year after the Gulf oil spill, 55% still say they would like to see increased offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. But that is down eight points from an Economist/YouGov Poll conducted just after the accident.
And the percentage that favors building more nuclear power plants to generate electricity is also down eight points from early 2010. Still, more Americans are willing to see more nuclear plants built than are not.
However, Americans don’t want those plants built in their own communities, opposing that 48% to 37%.
The radiation leaks from the Fukushima plant are not specifically a concern for most Americans. Just 29% say they are concerned about the radiation leaks affecting their own health (though concern is highest in the Northeast, the area furthest geographically from Japan). More (41%) have little or no confidence in the government agencies responsible for the safety of American nuclear power plants.
There is also little confidence that the country can reduce oil imports by a third by 2025, something President Obama called for in his energy speech last week. Only 23% of Americans believe that goal is even somewhat likely.
Photo source: flickr ( kevindooley )