This post is by Sheryl Canter, an online writer and editorial manager at Environmental Defense Fund.
According to a poll conducted in June by the Pew Research Center, soaring gas prices have caused a significant shift in American attitudes in just four months. American priorities, they say, have shifted strongly towards energy exploration and drilling, and away from conservation.
Is environmentalism dead, or is this result mainly due to how Pew framed the survey questions? I think the latter.
Take, for example, this question:
Right now, which ONE of the following do you think should be a more important priority for this country:
Protecting the environment
Developing new sources of energy
The question implies that you have to make a choice – that it's one or the other. But this isn't so — it's possible to do both. What if the options were develop clean energy or develop dirty energy? The results would have been quite different.
The second question in the Pew poll had a similar problem:
Right now, which ONE of the following do you think should be the more important priority for U.S. energy policy:
Expanding exploration, mining and drilling, and the construction of new power plants
More energy conservation and regulation on energy use and prices
That's like asking people whether they'd prefer to eat disgusting food or go hungry. Those are hardly the only options! What if the choices were drill for oil or get the electric car on the road? Again, the results would have been quite different.
Pew's inartfully worded poll tells us that Americans are feeling squeezed, for sure, but little more.