WASHINGTON – When it comes to saving energy, people in the United States know that driving a fuel-efficient car accomplishes more than turning off the lights at home. But that doesn’t mean they’ll do it.
A new poll shows that though most of those questioned understand effective ways to save energy, they have a hard time adopting them.
Six in 10 surveyed say driving a more fuel-efficient car would save a large amount of energy, but only one in four says that’s easy to do, according to the poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. People also are skeptical of carpooling or installing better home insulation, rating them as effective but impractical.
On the other end of the spectrum, eight in 10 say they easily can turn off the lights when they leave a room, and six in 10 have no problem turning up the thermostat in summer or down in winter, although fewer than half think those easy steps save large amounts of energy.
Even those who support conservation don’t always practice it.
Cindy Shriner, a retired teacher from Lafayette, Ind., buys energy-efficient light bulbs, and her 2009 Subaru Impreza gets nearly 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
Still, she keeps her house at about 73 degrees year-round, despite government recommendations to turn thermostats to 68 degrees in winter and 78 degrees in summer.
“I’m terrible,” Shriner, 60, said in an interview. “In all honesty, we have extreme weather in all seasons” in Indiana, she said, and her thermostat settings keep her comfortable.
The public looks to large institutions for leadership in saving energy, believing individuals alone can’t make much of a difference. Nearly two-thirds look to the energy industry to show the way toward energy conservation, and nearly six in 10 say the government should play a leading role. Democrats, college graduates and people younger than 50 are the most likely to hold the industry responsible for increasing energy savings.
The poll, paid for by a grant to the AP-NORC Center from the Joyce Foundation, shows that just four in 10 questioned think their own actions can significantly affect the country’s energy problems. Some 15 percent say individual actions make “a very large difference,” and 7 percent say individual action makes no difference at all.
On some energy topics, people are in the dark.
Only one in three reports knowing a lot or a great deal about the government’s Energy Star product labels, which are meant to help consumers choose energy-efficient appliances and other products. Not even 20 percent know a lot or a great deal about rebates for energy-saving products, home-renovation tax credits or home-energy audits.
The survey was conducted from March 29 to April 25. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,008 adults nationwide and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.