New Guide Primes Voters to Face Up to Our Energy Challenges

Public Agenda releases the second in a series of unbiased Citizens' Solutions Guides to help voters navigate tough issues ahead of the election.


New York, NY Voters have a new nonpartisan resource to guide them through the nation's energy challenges as they prepare for November's election. While the American public lacks basic energy knowledge, the issue remains a top concern as citizens get ready to head to the polls. "Energy: A Citizens' Solution Guide," from Public Agenda, a nonpartisan research and public engagement organization based in Manhattan, provides citizens with critical facts about our nation's energy reality and prepares them to assess policy solutions proposed by the candidates.

Past Public Agenda research suggests that the public has serious knowledge gaps when it comes to energy. Of citizens surveyed for "The Energy Learning Curve" in 2009, 32 percent could not name a fossil fuel, and over half could not correctly name a renewable energy source. Despite these facts, energy is still on the minds of 8 out of 10 Americans, right after concerns for the economy, education, and health care.

In the wake of this concern and confusion, "Energy: A Citizens' Solutions Guide" explains, in a clear and comprehensive manner, essential facts about energy and illuminates considerations around cost, energy security and environmental impact. The guide also includes an insert with a breakdown of energy sources, clarifying pros and cons and detailing usage and abundance for each.

"It's easy to say, 'Move to renewable energy,' or, 'Drill more,' but the reality is that any possible solution carries some serious tradeoffs that voters need to start examining and weighing," said Allison Rizzolo, senior communications associate at Public Agenda and coauthor of the guide. "Energy is a complex issue, with a lot of moving parts. Off-shore drilling and fracking carry environmental implications, but moving to renewable energy will be a costly process. It will also be decades before we can produce energy from renewable sources in substantial quantities. Voters need to realize there is no simple solution, and we really need to start having a conversation about the tradeoffs we're going to accept as a society."

To help citizens confront and weigh these tradeoffs, the guide also examines three potential plans for action, their policy implications, and the arguments for and against them. These plans include:

  • Moving away from reliance on fossil fuels and making investments in renewable sources
  • Ensuring energy security by focusing on domestic fossil fuel production
  • Moving toward a more energy-efficient society by encouraging individuals and businesses to conserve, meanwhile modernizing our energy grid
Citizens' Solutions Guide Series Breaks Through Campaign Rhetoric The energy guide, available as a downloadable PDF, is the second in a series of Citizens' Solutions Guides that helps voters examine trade-offs and consequences around our nation's most pressing public problems. Candidates like to make big promises and often avoid talking about the serious tradeoffs that come with any of the tough choices that have to be made. The Citizens' Solutions Guides cut through divisive and dysfunctional rhetoric from politicians, conflicting information and spin from the media, and voters' own wishful thinking so that we can move forward through gridlock.

"Too often, campaign rhetoric and political spin cloud the real choices we need to face when it comes to our nation's most pressing public problems," said Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda. "Citizens need the resources and the space to help them think through these issues outside the often manipulative chatter of overly-partisan politics, so that they can identify and weigh the consequences of various courses of action. The Citizens' Solutions Guides are designed for this purpose, helping citizens come to terms with these issues in time for the coming election and beyond."

Subsequent Citizens' Solutions Guides on health care, immigration, education, and jobs and the economy will be released as a suite before the election. They are made possible through generous support from The Dilenschneider Group. Each Guide will include a brief overview of the selected topic, an evenhanded review of possible solutions, the pros and cons of each approach and resources for readers to learn and do more. All of the Guides will be available both online and in a downloadable PDF format.

The Citizens' Solutions Guides are fresh updates to resources that Public Agenda has provided to the public every election year since 1996. The 2008 election guides were downloaded and used by hundreds of thousands of users, including journalists, forum moderators, students and teachers.

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