A recent Harris Poll shows only 1 in 10 Americans knows much about the source(s) of their electricity. While Congress debates the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, much education is needed to enhance public knowledge, understanding and interest in various sources of electrical power, their associated benefits and risks and the value of becoming more energy efficient.

According to a Reuters report the poll said, "When it comes to renewable sources of energy and natural gas, the public overwhelmingly indicates that the benefit of the source outweigh the risks. At least two-thirds of Americans believe that when used, the benefits of solar (82%), wind/turbine (78%), hydroelectric (water) (73%) and natural gas (66%)outweigh any risks associated with the different sources.

Coal, which provides approximately half (49%) of electrical power production in the United States and is the most heavily used source of energy, is perceived differently. Two in five Americans (42%) say the risks of using coal outweigh the benefits while 36% believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

So What?

With limited knowledge and interest in the topic, as the debate over the Energy bill rages on, public opinion can be based on incomplete or inaccurate information about the various sources of energy and their perceived benefits and risks. Significant room exists to educate the public on the pros and cons of
each source of energy, including factors such as; current and future use of each source, reliability, cost, environmental impacts and ways to become more energy efficient. Much work is needed by Congress, energy companies and communities to engage consumers in the dialogue around this new energy economy.