Survey: Only wind, solar power viewed more positively than natural gas

Despite an increased prevalence of energy-efficient utilities, lighting and HVAC systems in American households, a majority of American consumers still believe that the benefits of natural gas use outweigh the risks associated with the practice commonly used to extract that fuel source from the soil.

A Harris Poll released this week found that 66 percent of Americans feel this way, while only 17 percent feel that the dangers and associated health risks involved with collecting natural gas for use in American homes exceeds the benefits. Comparatively, 79 percent praised solar power, while 76 percent thought the benefits of wind power outweighed its risks.

The process used to access natural gas from deep below the earth's surface – hydraulic fracturing – has been criticized by many for the environmental effects that are associated with the practice.

The process requires about 70 to 140 billion gallons of water to complete in the United States each year, air quality may suffer in regions where the process is more common and dangerous chemicals could sink into water supplies and groundwater aquifers. According to nonprofit advocacy group Earthworks, additional public health risks may be associated hydraulic fracturing processes in specific locations.

Even though Americans think natural gas is relatively inexpensive, they may not realize the cost savings that could be possible by converting to energy-efficient homes. Homeowners who have hired a home inspection company to survey their properties have realized just how significantly energy upgrades can help slash utility bills.

After an energy audit is conducted, homeowners may make simple enhancements to their lighting by installing CFL bulbs, or they may choose to conduct more invasive procedures, such as hiring a contractor to overhaul their heating and insulation.