Knowledge and Perceptions of Energy Alternatives, Carbon and Spatial Footprints, and Future Energy Preferences within a University Community in Northeastern US


Our overall research aim was to examine whether people distinguished between the spatial footprint and carbon footprint of different energy sources, and whether their overall “worry” about energy types was related to future developed of these types. We surveyed 451 people within a university community regarding knowledge about different energy sources with regard to renewability and spatial and carbon footprints and attitudes about which energy type(s) should be developed further. Findings were: 1) Gas, oil and coal were rated as the least renewable, and wind, solar and hydro as the most renewable; 2) Oil and coal were rated as having the largest carbon footprint, while wind, solar and tidal were rated the lowest; 3) There were smaller differences in ratings for spatial footprints, probably reflecting unfamiliarity with the concept, although oil and gas were rated the highest; 4) Energy sources viewed as renewable were favored for future development compared with non-renewable energy sources, and coal and oil were rated the lowest; 5) Worry-free sources such as solar were favored; and 6) There were some age-related differences, but they were small, and there were no gender-related differences. Overall, subjects knew more about carbon footprints than spatial footprints, generally correctly identified renewable and non-renewable sources, and wanted future energy development for energy sources which were less worried about (e.g. solar, wind). These perceptions require in-depth examination in a large sample from different areas of the country.

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J. Burger and M. Gochfeld, "Knowledge and Perceptions of Energy Alternatives, Carbon and Spatial Footprints, and Future Energy Preferences within a University Community in Northeastern US," Energy and Power Engineering, Vol. 5 No. 4, 2013, pp. 322-331. doi: 10.4236/epe.2013.54033.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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