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'Sinking Feeling' in Drought Areas Leads to Higher Demand for Green Energy
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August 17, 2012

'Sinking Feeling' in Drought Areas Leads to Higher Demand for Green Energy

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

In America, almost nobody has a “dry” sense of humor anymore – and who can blame them? Faced with record-breaking 2012 summer heat, 81 percent of Americans are concerned about "increased drought" and other extreme weather conditions, according to a major new survey conducted July 26-30 for the not-for-profit and nonpartisan Boston-based Civil Society Institute (CSI (News - Alert)) by Princeton, New Jersey-based ORC International.

The poll found that concerns over sinking reservoir, conduit, river and lake levels have made people focus on using alternative energy sources, such as wind farms and solar arrays, which require less water for production. Indeed, three out of four respondents – including 61 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Independents – supported this idea.

The survey was performed across a number of the U.S. states most affected by drought – among them, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina and Texas.

This issue is topped nationally only by concerns about higher food prices (66 percent), and is trailed by higher gasoline prices (61 percent), higher utility bills (49 percent), and diminished recreational activities (24 percent).

Fully 85 percent of Americans – including 76 percent of Republicans, 91 percent of Democrats and 88 percent of Independents – say the availability of ample clean water should be a top national priority for the United States. In drought-hit states, the total rises – to 86 percent in California and 90 percent in Georgia. 

And the dry weather is changing opinions about global warming. Two-thirds of Americans – including 50 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents – now think that climate change is "real" or "appears to be happening."

Only 6 percent of respondents believed that climate change is "definitely not happening."

Predictably, respondents in nine out of ten drought states, ranging from a low of 63 percent in Texas to a high of 80 percent in California, are as or more likely than the rest of the U.S. population to think that climate change is real. 

Other key findings include the following:

A shortage of safe drinking water due to lack of rain and "the diversion of water for energy production" is the number-one overall worry in the ten drought-stricken states, with 63 percent overall "very concerned," and even higher numbers in Florida (74 percent) and Georgia (71 percent).

Nationwide, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans are "very concerned" about the prospect of "possible shortages of safe drinking water" due to drought and diversion for energy production. 

Americans want a U.S. energy/water "road map." Nearly nine out of ten Americans (89 percent) – including 86 percent of Republicans, 93 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Independents – believe "U.S. energy planning and decision making must be made with full knowledge and understanding about the availability of water regionally and locally, and the impact this water use from specific energy choices has on their economies, including agricultural production."  

Of those Americans who think climate change is real or appears to be happening, 73 percent – 65 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents – have been convinced by "recent extreme weather events in the United States, including drought, wildfires, high-wind storms and other developments." 

About two in five Americans (39 percent) have "personally experienced the impact of drought in the last year." In drought-hit states, this jumps to highs of 74 percent in Missouri, 69 percent in Texas, 63 percent in New Mexico, and 62 percent in Colorado.

Pam Solo, president of the Civil Society Institute, commented on the poll results."We now understand all too well the harsh realities of the current drought and its relationship to changes in the climate from global warming,” she said. “America's 'all of the above' non-solution for electricity generation is a dead-end path – one requiring vast amounts of water for coal-fired power plants, nuclear reactors and the fracking extraction of natural gas.”

“It didn't have to be like this,” she added. “In 2005, the Congress mandated that the U.S. Department of Energy produce a water/energy roadmap. Seven years later, we have neither a roadmap nor even a general understanding of what water resources we do have. We don't know what the competition between energy, agriculture, industrial and residential uses will mean for food security; and the dependability and costs of energy sources that are reliant on increasingly scarce water. The sad truth is that we are flying blind today when we could have had the foundation for a national water/energy plan in place years ago."

“The old expression is that everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. That may not be the case when it comes to drought that poses a threat to the availability of clean water,” said Pollster Graham Hueber, senior researcher, ORC International. “Driven by their concerns about drought, a strong majority of Americans responding to this survey was open to making choices, such as more wind and solar power, if doing so would avoid worsening the water shortages brought on by drought. In looking across party lines, we see broadly bipartisan sharing of both concerns about drought and support for more 'water friendly' energy alternatives."

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Edited by Braden Becker

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