At The University of Texas at Austin, I work to understand the relationship between scientists, policymakers, and the public with regard to energy issues. The primary challenge is that “energy” is a very broad term that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
In our most recent round of the UT Energy Poll, nearly 2,400 people–representative of the U.S. based on census data–were surveyed about energy consumption, pricing, development and regulation. Below I have highlighted data on hydraulic fracturing and global climate change because these two topics make international headlines daily. Everyone seems to be talking about them, but as the poll results demonstrate, media coverage is not synonymous with public energy literacy and awareness.
Sixty-three percent of respondents reported they had “never heard of” or were “not familiar” with hydraulic fracturing. Just 32 percent called themselves “familiar,” leaving 5 percent who answered more ambiguously, “neither.” In other words, fracking is a case where the public lags behind the science and the technology, so we are left with a highly controversial topic that few Americans understand. But this technology is not only a big deal; it’s already changing the international energy landscape.
This contribution to “Your Dot” at NYTimes was originally posted as part of a slideshow on June 19, 2012.