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'Global fear' over energy plans

The findings from across 19 countries come in the run-up to the G8 summit in St Petersburg, Russia, which will focus on energy security. Carried out for the BBC World Service, the poll of nearly 20,000 people indicates concern that some energy suppliers will withhold oil exports. The study also found wide support for alternative energy strategies. The poll illustrates a perceived triple threat from the way the world produces and uses energy. Majorities across all 19 countries indicate that citizens fear: the climate and environment are being harmed, that the global economy will be destabilized and that competition for energy will lead to greater conflict, the poll suggests.

Strong majorities across the 19 countries want governments to actively address energy issues, especially through tax incentives to develop renewable energy supplies (80% favor) and higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles (67% favor). Fully eight in ten citizens (81%) across the 19 countries are concerned about the impact current energy policy is having on the Earth’s environment and climate. In Australia, Great Britain, Canada and Italy the level of concern topped 90%. The findings back a conclusion by an expert panel recently convened by BBC News that climate change is "real and dangerous" and that politicians were unlikely to cut emissions to prevent global warming.

Doug Miller, president of the poll firm GlobeScan, said: "What's fascinating is that in the midst of historically high energy prices and geopolitical tensions, the number one energy concern in every industrialized country we surveyed is the environmental and climate impacts." Creating tax incentives to encourage the use of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power found favor with 80% of respondents. But there was lukewarm support for more nuclear energy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. On average, 49% were in favor of building more nuclear plants.

This week's G8 meeting coincides with a new surge in oil prices, which are hovering around $70 a barrel. Majorities of 60% or more in 18 of the 19 countries polled said they feared energy shortages and prices would destabilize the world economy. The least concerned was Russia, a major oil and gas producer, which benefits from higher prices. Both US and EU leaders have warned Russia not to use energy as a tool of foreign policy. Earlier this year, the nation's monopoly, Gazprom, cut off gas supplies to Europe during a price dispute with Ukraine. However, world opinion was evenly divided on whether to trust Russia to honor its energy commitments. On average, 45% said they trusted Russia, while Iran was the least trusted. Some 73% of those questioned were worried that energy shortages would lead to greater conflict among nations. Program on International Policy Attitudes Director, Steven Kull, comments, “The poll shows an extraordinary level of agreement that the way the world is producing and using energy is not viable. People around the world will be looking to the G-8 leaders to address this issue and show a readiness to support significant new steps.” In total, 19,579 citizens were interviewed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine and the US. Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners. (GlobeScan, BBC)