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Thursday, July 13, 2006

International Poll Finds Citizens Worldwide Worried About Energy - But Just Don't Raise Our Taxes!

A new survey, carried out for the BBC World Service and conducted in 19 countries throughout the world concludes that: "We're very concerned that the way energy is consumed and produced threatens the environment and threatens peace."

'We're worried,' is the overwhelming message that citizens in a diverse range of countries are sending to politicians.

So far, so clear.

But then the snag. The difficulty for policy-makers is that the BBC poll also indicates a strong view across the globe that taxes should not rise to alleviate the problem - unless it be taxes on others like car-makers.

All told, the BBC survey polled 19,579 people in May and June in 19 countries - Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine and the US.

The survey shows a remarkable degree of agreement about energy concerns. For example, people in the US, Egypt, France, Chile, the Philippines and Brazil agree in overwhelming proportions - 70% or higher - that "energy shortages/prices will destabilise the world economy".

They also agree that "competition for energy will lead to greater war/conflict" and "energy production/use is harming the environment/climate" [see graph above].

But then comes the question: "What should be done?" and the global accord breaks down.

Differing Opinions on Solutions

On "building new nuclear power plants", the BBC reports that there are differences of support across the world. Egyptians, Kenyans, Indians and South Koreans are strongly in favour - about two to one - but Poles, Russians and Ukrainians strongly against (for obvious reasons, one surmises, given the accident in Chernobyl 20 years ago at the nuclear plant near Kiev).

On requiring car-makers to increase fuel efficiency, there is strong global agreement, the BBC reports. And apart from in the Philippines, Poland and Egypt, there is a clear majority indicated by the poll in favour of tougher standards on car exhaust pollution.

And there is overwhelming agreement on one other measure: tax incentives for renewable energy. The BBC survey finds that large majorities in all countries polled favour giving tax breaks to ventures which promote wave or wind or solar power, with 86% agreeing in the US, 88% in Brazil, 85% in Poland and down to a still strong 62% in Chile.

And then the fly in the ointment: Do you favour increasing energy taxes?

According to the survey, Australians come out as the most altruistic, with 69% in favor of higher energy taxes [presumably to help promote energy conservation and/or fund alternatives], followed by the British and Kenyans with 62% and 60% respectively. Next come the Germans, Egyptians, US and Canada, all about evenly split with around 47% in favor of higher taxes.

And then a mass of opposition: in Poland only 7% are for higher energy taxes, in Brazil 13% and in Russia 12%.

The upshot of this testing of opinion across the globe is a strong feeling that energy is a subject of deep concern, the BBC concludes, and that governments should do more. But that resolve evaporates when it comes to spending more of our own money...

[A hat tip to Aren Hinley]

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