The Cure for Energy Ignorance

Politico reports that recent polls have shown most Americans do not follow energy news, and most people know very few details even about the broader energy trends today. One UT Austin poll found that only 14 percent of Americans read or hear about energy issues daily, and 58% believed Saudi Arabia is the nation’s largest foreign oil supplier, with only 13% correctly identifying Canada as the largest.

Reading numbers like these may explain why crucial energy developments such as the Keystone XL pipeline can be held up by activists for so long while oil consumers remain apathetic—but what can explain these numbers in a country that is so glued to its 24 hour news cycle for everything else—from weather to sports to celebrity gossip?

Part of the explanation is that most Americans have never been taught about the role of energy in their lives—how inextricable it is from all of the values they do have interest in pursuing. Most can’t imagine life without affordable energy, and they don’t consider how historically rare and politically vulnerable such feats of technological development are.

The unfortunate result is that our most important policy debates occur in a culture that is mostly unprepared to think about energy issues, and in which many important votes are swayed by the ability of anti-energy ideologues to scare and manipulate the public with doomsday narratives and pseudo-science.

To solve this problem and to protect its freedom to produce and our freedom to live fulfilling lives, the energy industry will have to learn to tell its story effectively, and to elucidate the real relationship between the energy they produce and it’s customers’ deeply-held values. All of CIP’s work is directed to helping them do exactly that.

In his new manifesto, “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels: The Key to Winning Hearts and Minds” Alex Epstein lays out the first steps every energy company needs to take to make a difference in the fossil fuel debate. The quality of all of our lives will be determined by whether they can do so in the coming decades, so if you know someone who works in the industry, please do yourself a favor and pass the manifesto along to them.