The National Foundation for Energy Education (NFEE) recently conducted the National Student Energy Survey and discovered that most of the 4,611 participating middle and high school students indicated strong support for renewable energy sources. But while the survey shows that many students are optimistic about the U.S. energy future, some of that optimism comes from a lack of awareness of the facts, according to the survey’s organizer. The survey was developed and organized by the NFEE and sponsored in the Chicago area by the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Chicago.

In late 2009, MCA of Chicago teamed with survey organizer and NFEE President Jerry Katz to offer energy-related Student Leadership Training Workshops on energy to Chicago-area high school students. According to Katz, the survey and training workshops are part of the Great American Energy Debate, a 10-year nationwide program created by the NFEE. Students from 85 schools in 22 states participated in the survey from late February through mid-March.

Findings from the Survey
The Environment:
• Almost two-thirds, 66 percent, indicated concern about climate change.
• When asked how well the energy industry protects the environment, 36 percent said they felt industry is doing a good job, while 39 percent felt the industry was doing a poor job.

Power Generation:
• Thirty-seven percent supported—and the same percentage opposed—nuclear energy for new power generation during the next 20 years.
• When asked what energy sources should generate the nation’s power during the next 20 years, with a value of 10 being very supportive, nuclear received a score of 4.9, coal rated a 3.8, and wind and solar came in at 7.5.
• As a whole, students guessed that 60 percent of total U.S. energy use currently is being used for power generation. The real value is 40 percent.

Oil and Gas:
• Students correctly estimated that 60 percent of the nation’s petroleum is supplied by imports.
• Students predicted that in 20 years, 49 percent of the nation’s vehicles will run on a fuel other than gasoline.
• Support for oil and gas development offshore and in Alaska jumped from 4.9 to 6.2 when students were given the option of having production royalties earmarked for conservation and renewable-energy programs.

Renewable Energy:
• Students estimated that on average, 45 percent of the nation’s energy is being supplied by renewable sources. Adults taking the survey estimated 14 percent on average. The correct value is 8 percent.
• Students predicted that by 2030, 62 percent of the total energy demand would be supplied by renewable sources.
• When it came to a willingness to invest in conservation and renewable energy, many students said yes, if the payback period was less than nine years. Adults said seven years.

For more information on the National Foundation for Energy Education and their efforts to educate America’s students about energy, visit www.TheGreatAmericanEnergyDebate.org. For more information on MCA of Chicago, visit www.mca.org.