Energy Efficiency, Renewability, and Sustainability Priorities for Arkansas Community Leaders

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A team of faculty and post-graduate researchers at the University of Arkansas recently surveyed over 200 local policymakers and business leaders in Northwest Arkansas to gauge their opinions, attitudes and preferences toward energy policies and issues.

The 2014 Arkansas Energy Policy Survey was conducted by Geoboo Song, assistant professor of political science and public policy in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, and John Kester III and Rachael Moyer, graduate students in the environmental dynamics doctoral program and department of political science, respectively. The survey found that the majority of local policymakers and business leaders felt confident that Arkansas has adequate energy sources to meet future energy needs and were relatively satisfied with current overall state energy policies.

With regard to sustainable energy policies, which were one of the primary concerns of this study, local policymakers and business leaders believed that there is public support for such policies, which can lead to better land use and economic opportunities, though they were concerned about local government administrative and fiscal capacity to fully implement such policy options in their communities. In particular, the majority of local policy makers and business leaders supported sustainable energy policies such as tax credit programs, home energy affordability loans, and updated energy conservation codes, as well as energy saving goals and standards for renewable energy.

As for the proposed installation of high voltage power lines in the Ozark Mountain area, another key concern of this research, local community leaders recognized a variety of benefits relating to energy reliability and efficient power transmission, but generally indicated that the risks associated with the installation outweigh such benefits. Energy supply and reliability, efficient energy transmission and the maintenance of necessary services during post-disaster or high energy demand periods are considered the most beneficial, whereas economic risk derived from a decrease in property values near high voltage power line installations and potential environmental degradation were among their deepest concerns.

When prompted to identify trusted sources for information relating to energy policy issues, local leaders expressed the most confidence in scientists and academics, while they rated religious leaders, energy companies, and mainstream news media as less dependable.

Song said, “The ramifications of this survey study are manifold. This research not only serves as a foundation for quality scholarly work in public policy studies, but also contributes to Arkansas communities by providing important policy information relevant to key stakeholders in the energy policy subsystem, which is the primary mission of the Fulbright College and the University of Arkansas. In fact, we are very excited to note that survey reports summarizing the results have been shared with more than 1,400 local policymakers and business leaders in Northwest Arkansas.”     

The research team completed the first phase of the survey, which was administered to legislators, city council representatives, and professional organization members in 15 major cities in Northwest Arkansas, between March 17 and April 8. Phase 2 of the 2014 Arkansas Energy Policy Survey will be conducted this summer and will cover areas of the state outside of the northwest region. The detailed survey report can be found here

Contacts:

Geoboo Song, Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science
(479)575-6433, gbsong@uark.edu

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