Memorandum from Dr David M Reiner, Judge
Business School, University of Cambridge
1. Dr David M Reiner is Lecturer in Technology
Policy at the University of Cambridge where he focuses on climate
change policy, energy and environmental policy, and energy security.
He has worked on the social and political acceptability of carbon
capture and storage for the last three years.
2. Abstract. We have recently conducted
a first public opinion survey of the British public that begins
to survey their views related to carbon capture and storage and
other energy technologies. Very few people in the UK have heard
of CCS although those who have do seem to know what environmental
concern it addresses. Support for CCS is mixed although most of
public has neither a positive nor a negative opinion of the technology;
with additional information, however, support for CCS does increase
noticeably. The public strongly supports the use of renewable
energy to address global warming and as a target of future research.
Offering cost and usage information results in a small shift away
from renewable energy towards nuclear energy and fossil fuel combustion
with carbon capture and storage, but even with cost information,
renewable energy maintains a strong following. As reflected in
preferences for DTI priorities, individual technologies and global
warming strategies, the strength of public support for renewable
energy as the preferred approach to addressing global warming
is quite robust. Other approaches, such as CCS, will face a challenge
to portray themselves in the same favourable light as renewables.
Given the mixed and rather low levels of public appreciation,
environmental groups will play a large role in influencing the
debate. CCS has several important attractionsit poses fewer
problems for many environmental pressure groups as it allows for
a low-carbon central station power plant that is not nuclear power,
and it is a plausible option for the rapidly growing developing
3. In September 2004, the Judge Business
School at the University of Cambridge and the Laboratory for Energy
and the Environment (LFEE) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT), conducted a survey of attitudes towards energy and environmental
issues amongst the British public. The full report was issued
in March 2005 as a working paper of the MIT Laboratory for Energy
and Environment with co-authors Howard Herzog, Thomas Curry and
Mark de Figueiredo of the Laboratory for Energy and Environment
4. The UK public opinion poll was conducted
by YouGovparallel surveys were conducted in the US, Sweden
The study is part of a larger project funded by the Alliance for
Global Sustainability on public perceptions of carbon capture
and storage technologies together with Chalmers University of
Technology, University of Tokyo, Mizuho Research Institute, with
the participation of the US Electric Power Research Institute,
Japan's Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry,
Vatenfall, the Clean Air Task Force and Environment Northeast.
Additional funding for the project comes from MIT's Carbon Sequestration
Initiative and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science
and Technology (AIST) of Japan.
5. The survey consisted of 20 closed-ended
questions, with 17 of the questions addressing environmental issues
and three of the questions addressing specific demographic topics.
Several of the survey questions referred specifically to carbon
dioxide capture and storage.
6. The survey was distributed by YouGov,
an online polling company. YouGov uses Internet polling, rather
than traditional polling methods and recruits its panel over the
Internet. YouGov maintains a panel of 46,000 electors in the United
Kingdom, recruited via non-political websites through invitations
and pop-up advertisements. Respondents are provided a monetary
incentive for each survey in which they participate. Results are
weighted based on demographic information provided by the panelists
to YouGov. The survey of the British public received 1,056 responses
out of 2,640 panelists selected, or a response rate of about 40%.
Table 1 shows summary statistics for the survey.
SUMMARY STATISTICS OF SURVEY ON ENERGY AND
|Number of participants||1,056
|Number of participants solicited||2,640
|% Male/% Female||47.6/52.4%
|Average age||40 to 49 years old
7. Respondents were asked to choose a top priority for
the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and were asked a
follow-up question about the next most important priority. Table
2 shows the responses.
PRIORITIES FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
|Priority||Listed first or second (%)
||Priority||Listed first or second (%)
|New energy sources: solar, wind, or bioenergy/biomass
||52||Ways to better manage toxic waste
||Clean drinking water
|Anti-terrorism and security||23
||Nuclear waste disposal
||Ways to remove carbon from atmosphere
|More energy efficient cars and trucks||18
||New oil and gas reserves
|More energy efficient buildings||8
||Cleaner burning coal
Responses to Question 5: If the Department of Trade and Industry
has £5 billion to spend, which do you think should be the
top priority? (Responses shown include the top priority and the
8. Over half of respondents listed new energy sources,
defined as a selection of renewable energy sources, as a top priority
for DTI. About a third, 35 %, selected new energy sources as their
first choice. Aside from renewable energy, four other prioritiespublic
transport, anti-terrorism and security, energy conservation and
energy-efficient carsreceived roughly 20% support, whereas
the remaining nine alternatives, including "ways to remove
carbon from the atmosphere" and "cleaner burning coal",
two selections that could include development of CCS, received
support from less than 10% of respondents.
9. To see if people understood the drivers of global
warming, the survey asked about sources of carbon dioxide. Table
3 shows that very few respondents offered the "incorrect"
response about automobiles, factories, coal burning power plants,
home heating, breathing, windmills, and trees. More than three
quarters of respondents were correct about automobiles, factories,
coal burning power plants, and trees. Respondents were less sure
and less correct about nuclear power, farming, and oceans.
UNDERSTANDING THE SOURCE OF CARBON DIOXIDE
|Technology or Practice||Increases Carbon Dioxide (%)
||Decreases Carbon Dioxide (%)
|Coal burning power plants||81
|Nuclear power plants||24
Responses to Question 7: There is a growing concern about
increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. How do
you think the following contribute to these levels?
10. Technologies or practices generally associated with
emissions (automobiles, factories, and coal burning power plants)
are also associated with a release of carbon dioxide, thus it
is impossible to tell if respondents made the explicit connection
to carbon dioxide or whether they simply associated these technologies
with air emissions or pollution more generally.
11. It is interesting to note that in spite of efforts
by proponents to portray nuclear energy as a climate-friendly
energy source, over half of respondents do not know that nuclear
power does not emit carbon dioxide, including almost a quarter
of respondents who mistakenly believe that nuclear power is a
source of carbon dioxide.
12. Very few people have heard of or read about carbon
capture and storage or carbon sequestration (Table 4). Those who
ranked the environment as one of their three most important concerns
(roughly 13% of the sample) were more likely to have said that
they had heard of each of the technologies listed in Table 4. Ranking
global warming as a primary environmental concern (49% named global
warming as one of their top two environmental concerns) did not,
however, result in a similar increase. Those who gave a high ranking
to the environment were also less likely to say that they had
heard of none of the technologies (7% compared to 23% of people
not concerned about the environment) while those who gave a high
ranking to global warming were actually more likely to say that
they had not heard of any of the technologies (26% compared to
17% of those not concerned about global warming).
PERCENT OF RESPONDENTS WHO HAVE HEARD OF OR READ ABOUT
TECHNOLOGIES IN THE PAST YEAR
|More efficient cars||53
|More efficient appliances||40
|Carbon capture and storage||5
|None of these||21
Question 4: Have you heard of or read about any of the following
in the past year?
13. Figure 1 presents evidence of whether people knew
what environment problem "carbon sequestration" or "carbon
capture and storage" is intended to address. Given the limited
number of respondents who had heard of or read about CCS in the
past year (as shown in Table 4), it is not surprising that a large
number of respondents answered "not sure" when asked
what problem CCS addresses. Nevertheless, it is notable that the
highest number of "can reduce" responses were for the
correct answer (global warming), which reflects an association
between "carbon" and global warming. Moreover, aside
from global warming, the next three most frequently chosen responses
for problems CCS "can reduce" were related to atmospheric
emissions (ozone depletion, acid rain, and smog).
Figure 1. What Environmental Problem does CCS Address?
Question 6: Please select if "carbon sequestration"
or "carbon capture and storage" can reduce each of the
following environmental concerns.
14. For comparison, Figure 2 shows the responses of those
who said they had heard of or read about carbon capture and storage
or carbon sequestration. Not surprisingly, those who said they
had heard one of the two terms for CCS were more likely to give
an answer other than not sure. That group seemed to have a particularly
keen awareness of the linkage between CCS and global warmingfully
85% of that group correctly responded that CCS addressed global
warming, whereas none (of a relatively small sample, n=58) provided
the incorrect response (this is different from our US survey respondents,
where familiarity did not improve the likelihood of a correct
Figure 2. What Environmental Problems does CCS Address?
(Those who say they have heard of or read about carbon capture
and storage or carbon sequestration)
15. The survey asked respondents to select the technologies
they would consider using to address global warming. Each technology
was followed by a definition to provide the respondents with information
about what they were selecting. This question appeared late in
the survey and is the first time information was included. Figure
3 shows the responses.
Figure 3. Technological Preferences to Address Global
Question 13: The following technologies have been proposed
to address global warming. If you were responsible for designing
a plan to address global warming, which of the following technologies
would you use?
16. Respondents strongly supported the use of bioenergy/biomass,
carbon sequestration (defined in this case as using trees to absorb
carbon dioxide), solar energy, wind energy, and energy efficient
appliances and cars. No respondents opposed the use of energy
efficient cars or appliances and only a small percentage voiced
any opposition to this set of technologies (although wind energy
did elicit the largest negative response at 7%). By contrast,
the public was more evenly divided on the question of nuclear
energy, CCS and iron fertilisation, although for the latter two
technologies, over 50% of respondents were unsure. Carbon capture
and storage (defined here as storage in underground reservoirs)
received a slightly net favourable response, whereas nuclear energy
and iron fertilisation were viewed more negatively.
17. Those concerned about the environment were twice
as likely as those not listing the environment as a primary concern
to answer they would "definitely not use" nuclear energy
(33% versus 17%).
18. The survey asked respondents to choose from seven
different ways to address global warming as it relates to electricity
production (presented in Table 9.1). Half of the respondents received
information about current electrical generation patterns and the
expected costs associated with different approaches. The other
half of the respondents were asked the question and not given
any additional information.
19. The price information was not meant to be exact,
but was meant to clearly distinguish relative costs between the
technologies to determine whether the public maintained their
support for renewable energy in the face of higher prices.
Figure 4. Preferred approaches to addressing global
warming as it relates to electricity production
Responses to Question 14: How do you feel we can best address
the issue of global warming as it relates to electricity production?
20. As seen in Figure 4, with and without information,
expanding renewable energy receives the most support. However,
when respondents were provided with cost and current production
information (eg, to reflect higher cost of renewables and that
nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide), support for expanding
nuclear energy and using fossil fuels with CCS increased dramatically.
Support for nuclear energy doubles from 9% to 18% of respondents
when information is provided. Support for fossil energy with CCS
increases ten-fold from 1% to 10% with information.
21. Given low public levels of recognition of CCS and
broad support for renewables, public attitudes towards CCS will
be influenced by early successes (or failures) of major CCS projects,
by the positions adopted by trusted opinion leaders such as non-governmental
organisations and the media.
22. If the choice is posited as a zero-sum game between
renewables, efficiency, nuclear and CCS, there will be inevitably
strong opposition to CCS from NGOs, although not as strong or
as deep as the longstanding opposition to nuclear power. If instead,
CCS is promoted as a bridging technology that does not interfere
with the growth of renewables and efforts to promote energy efficiency,
and particularly if the focus is on its potential role in developing
countries such as China, then there is likely to be a tolerance,
if not outright support for CCS in the UK and more broadly across
T E Curry, D M Reiner, M A de Figuereido, and H J Herzog, "A
Survey of Public Attitudes towards Energy & Environment in
Great Britain," Report MIT LFEE 2005-001 WP March 2005,
available at: http://lfee.mit.edu/metadot/index.pl?id=2637&isa=Item&field_name=item_attachment_file&op=download_file. Back
Details of the US study can be found in T Curry, D M Reiner,
S Ansolabehere, and H J Herzog, "How Aware Is The Public
Of Carbon Capture And Storage?" in E S Rubin, D W Keith,
and C F Gilboy, (eds) Proceedings of the International Conference
on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies: vol.1: Peer-reviewed papers
and plenary presentations (7th), 5-9 September 2004, Vancouver,
Canada. Cheltenham: IEA Greenhouse Gas Programme, available
at: http://uregina.ca/ghgt7/PDF/papers/peer/137.pdf. Back