CARI: Center for Applied Rural Innovation
Date of this Version
Energy prices have steadily increased during the past year. Rural residents are now faced with higher costs to drive and heat and cool their homes. Given these conditions, how much of a problem have rising energy costs been for rural Nebraskans? What are their opinions on future energy sources? What changes have they made or do they plan to make due to the price increases? This paper provides a detailed analysis of these questions.
This report details 2,496 responses to the 2008 Nebraska Rural Poll, the thirteenth annual effort to understand rural Nebraskans’ perceptions. Respondents were asked a series of questions about energy. For all questions, comparisons are made among different respondent subgroups, that is, comparisons by age, occupation, region, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:
• Most rural Nebraskans report that rising energy costs have been a somewhat serious problem or a very serious problem for themselves and their family lately. Forty-one percent of rural Nebraskans say rising energy costs have been a very serious problem and 43 percent report it has been a somewhat serious problem. Only one percent say the rising costs have not been a problem at all and 14 percent indicate it has been not too serious a problem. (page 2)
• Persons with the lowest household incomes are more likely than persons with higher incomes to report that rising energy prices have been a very serious problem. Fifty-three percent of persons with household incomes under $20,000 say rising energy costs have been a very serious problem, compared to 32 percent of persons with household incomes of $60,000 or more. (page 3)
• Many rural Nebraskans have made changes in household spending, driving patterns and household energy use as a result of recent energy price increases. At least three-quarters of rural Nebraskans have done the following items as a result of the recent energy price increases: cut back on luxury household spending (94%), reduced the heat or air conditioning use in your home (91%), cut back how much you drive (91%), attempted to use household appliances more efficiently (89%), cut back on necessary household spending (88%), acquired more goods and services locally (80%), and changed your vacation plans by shortening or postponing the trip (75%). (page 8)
• Many rural Nebraskans have also made driving behavior changes as a result of the recent energy price increases. Two-thirds (67%) of rural Nebraskans have driven their most fuel-efficient vehicle more often as a result of the recent energy price increases. Another nine percent are considering this change. Eleven percent of rural Nebraskans have converted to E-85 gasoline and an additional 14 percent are considering making this switch. Only three percent of rural Nebraskans have purchased a hybrid vehicle but 17 percent are considering this type of purchase. (page 11)
• Rural Nebraskans are divided in their opinions about whether or not sufficient energy supplies exist or if new technologies and alternative energy sources will help maintain energy supplies. Just under one-half (44%) of rural Nebraskans agree or strongly agree that there are sufficient oil and natural gas supplies around the world to meet U.S. needs for the foreseeable future. Thirty-eight percent disagree or strongly disagree with the statement. Similarly, just under one-half (47%) agree or strongly agree that “even if oil and natural gas supplies do decline, new technologies and alternative energy sources will ensure Americans maintain their current standard of living.” Thirty-two percent disagree or strongly disagree. (page 3)
• Most rural Nebraskans think the environment should be protected, even if this means some energy supplies are not available for use. Over one-half (57%) agree or strongly agree with this statement. Seventeen percent disagree or strongly disagree with that statement. Approximately one-quarter (26%) neither agree nor disagree with the statement. (page 3)
• Most rural Nebraskans believe that Americans should reduce their energy consumption to prevent an energy crisis and that more should be done to develop renewable energy. Seventy-seven percent of rural Nebraskans agree or strongly agree with the following statement: Americans must change their lifestyles to reduce energy consumption to avoid the onset of an energy “crisis” in the U.S. Only 10 percent disagree or strongly disagree with the statement. The majority (91%) of rural Nebraskans agree or strongly agree that “more should be done to develop renewable energy, such as ethanol, biodiesel or wind energy.” Only three percent disagree or strongly disagree with the statement. (pages 3 and 4)
• The vast majority of rural Nebraskans also believe we are too dependent on foreign oil sources. Ninety-three percent of rural Nebraskans agree or strongly agree with that statement, while only three percent disagree or strongly disagree. (page 4)
• Most rural Nebraskans see renewable sources as being important energy sources for the next generation. A larger proportion of rural Nebraskans rated wind and solar energy as being important compared to the fossil fuels of oil and natural gas. At least three-quarters of rural Nebraskans rate the following energy sources as being important for the next generation: wind energy (89%), solar energy (89%), oil (87%), natural gas (84%), ethanol from other sources (81%), ethanol from corn (79%), and biodiesel (76%). (page 5)
• Most rural Nebraskans rate electricity and unleaded gasoline as being very important or somewhat important to their household. Ninety-seven percent of rural Nebraskans say electricity is important to their household and 95 percent rate unleaded gasoline as important to their household. (page 7)
Center Research Report 08-1, July 2008.