US consumers respond to energy independence not efficiency

By John Parnell

Energy independence rather than the benefits of cutting carbon emissions, could be the key to persuading some US shoppers to invest in energy efficiency, according to a new study.

Conservative-minded voters were put off by labelling promoting the environmental credentials of products such as more efficient light bulbs.

“A popular strategy for marketing energy efficiency is to focus on its environmental benefits,” said Dena Gromet, the lead author of the research.

“But not everyone values protecting the environment. We were interested in whether promoting the environment could in fact deter some individuals from purchasing energy efficient options that they would have otherwise selected,” added Gromet.

Some US shoppers are likely to be deterred by environmental labelling (Source: Flickr/fotograf-zahl)

The paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that this was indeed the case.

The first study surveyed 657 US adults, 49% men, ranging in age from 19-81 about how they valued energy efficiency, reducing CO2 emissions and cutting dependence on foreign oil.

The more conservative the respondent, the less value they placed on energy efficiency.

Energy independence was universally popular.


In the second half of the research, 210 participants were given $2 to spend on a lightbulb and told they could keep the change. They were given the choice of an incandescent bulb costing 50¢ and a fluorescent bulb costing $1.50.

The energy saving bulb was selected in large numbers however when a label was added to it saying “protect the environment”, conservatives were less likely to choose it.

“These findings demonstrate that a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be successful for making energy-efficient products appealing to consumers,” said Larrick.

“People have different energy-related values which can influence their choices, including leading them to reject options that they recognize as having long-term economic benefits. In many cases, a tailored message may be needed to reach different market segments.”


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