Consumer Research of the Office of Energy Conservation and Environment, Federal Energy Administration

Jeffrey S. Milstein, Federal Energy Administration
[ to cite ]:
Jeffrey S. Milstein (1975) ,"Consumer Research of the Office of Energy Conservation and Environment, Federal Energy Administration", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 02, eds. Mary Jane Schlinger, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 925-927.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1975      Pages 925-927

CONSUMER RESEARCH OF THE OFFICE OF ENERGY CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENT, FEDERAL ENERGY ADMINISTRATION

Jeffrey S. Milstein, Federal Energy Administration

The purpose of the consumer research program of the Office of Energy Conservation and Environment, FEA, is to determine how to encourage a general conservation ethic as well as accelerate the utilization of energy-conserving goods and practices. Consumer researchers can contribute to this program by bidding on formal requests for proposals, by submitting research ideas for incorporation into future requests for proposals, and as consultants to help develop the consumer research program.

One of the main objectives of the energy conservation policies and pro grams of the Federal Energy Administration is to increase the energy-conserving behavior of the American consumer. FEA is trying to encourage a general conservation ethic as well as accelerate the utilization of specific energy-conserving goods (such as insulation, more efficient cars, and other consumer goods). The energy conservation ethic manifests itself in desirable energy-conserving behaviors, such as turning off unneeded lights or taking a bus instead of driving one's own car, and making more discriminating market demands for energy-saving consumer products. The purpose of the consumer research program of the Office of Energy Conservation and Environment is to determine for FEA how this popular encouragement can be done most effectively, to evaluate how effectively it is being done in terms of the end results of consumers' energy-conserving behavior, and to determine the factors in both the public and private sectors that facilitate and inhibit this process.

The methods and concepts of consumer research are used to determine in the most systematic and scientific way possible how energy scarcities, higher prices, and policies at all levels of government and business affect the American consumers' attitudes and actual energy-saving behavior. The results of these consumer research studies are used to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of energy conservation policies and programs at the Federal, state, and local levels.

I have conceptualized five general inter-related factors that impact on consumers' energy-conserving behavior, either directly or indirectly. These general factors are:

1. Energy supplies available to the consumer;

2. Government energy policies and programs;

3. Consumers' awareness, attitudes, and preferences about energy use and motivations to conserve energy;

4. Social and economic structure, including- business policies and practices that provide energy-using goods and services to consumers; and

5. Consumers' actual energy-conserving and using behavior.

Consumer research is undertaken to obtain for FEA data on each of these factors, and analyses performed to show how these factors impact on each other. With the information resulting from this on-going and planned research, FEA will be better able to stimulate an optimum of energy-conserving behavior bs the American consumer.

In general, the consumer research is divided into five major sets. The first is an analysis of how reductions in energy supplies and government energy policy and programs affect consumers' awareness, attitudes, and preferences regarding energy use and motivations to conserve energy and consumers' energy-conserving behavior.

To obtain data for this purpose, the Office of Energy Conservation and Environment of FEA has contracted out for a weekly national survey. The sample is a stratified random sample of 300 persons per week (a different sample is chosen each week). The questions we ask seek to determine attitudes and awareness towards energy policies, overall knowledge about energy and its use by consumers, factors that motivate people to use and save energy, what consumers' reported energy using behavior is, what effects energy shortages and/or higher prices have on their behavior, and their attitudes towards the energy shortage, higher energy prices, and the uses of energy.

Typical subjects we query about include the perceived seriousness of the energy shortage, perceived responsibility for energy shortages, how much consumers have been affected by energy shortages, the perceived role of the federal government, perceived reliability of information sources about energy, perception of actual or possible government policies, personal efforts to conserve energy, personal steps taken to use less energy (e.g. insulating home, driving slower, buying smaller cars, car pooling, using mass transit, turning down thermostats, using less lighting and air conditioning, changing shopping patterns, and traveling less). We also try to assess the knowledge and understanding of the people regarding balance of international trade, the impending coal strike, etc.

We use the results of these surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of voluntary conservation programs, and to evaluate policy options to deal with further conservation requirements.

The second research set is designed to find out what motivates consumers to use energy and to conserve energy, and then to determine what program of advertising and media communications (both persuasive and informational) would be most effective in getting consumers to conserve energy. The communications to consumers regarding energy conservation include a public service advertising campaign sponsored by the Advertising Council, with advertising in all the media. In addition, there are proposed or actual voluntary and/or mandatory labeling requirements on cars and some kinds of appliances. Further, there are now legal requirements that fuel oil distributors send all their customers information on how to conserve energy in heating their homes. There are also actual or proposed television programs on energy use and energy conservation.

We basically must find out how to communicate most effectively to get American consumers to conserve energy.

The third research set is designed to find out how business policies and practices affect consumers' energy-conservation attitudes and behavior through advertising and product lines.

The fourth research set is designed to develop a set of government policies and programs that will hasten the provision of energy-efficient products and services for the consumer and give those products (including energy-efficient housing and transportation) a competitive advantage in the market.

The fifth research set is designed to identify the economic and social consequences of reducing the energy demand growth rate and evaluating whether these consequences help or hinder energy conservation by consumers. Such consequences include the quality of life American consumers enjoy (absolutely and in comparison to wealthy foreign countries that consume less energy per capita than in the U. S.), and conflicts consumers might have with others in the society.

Now how can consumer researchers contribute to this consumer research program of FEA's Office of Energy Conservation and Environment? First, I must explain that all of our consumer research is done by people outside the Government who are contracted by FEA to do this research.

FEA is not a grant-giving organization: all of our contract research is done by competitive bidding in response to formal requests for proposals which FEA advertises in Commerce Business Daily, Those requests for proposals are related to our programmatic research which I have just outlined.

Unsolicited proposals for research cannot be funded on a sole-source contact basis. If one has an idea for research to be done, and is willing to compete to do the research, that idea may be incorporated into one of our requests for proposals and become a part of our programmatic research if communicated to us.

FEA occasionally also hires consultants on a daily basis to help develop our consumer research program. Such consultants, however, would be precluded from competing for a research contract on any research he or she had a hand in helping develop.

Finally, FEA welcomes the opportunity to communicate with consumer researchers formally and informally, to read their published and unpublished reports, in an overall attempt to help us to better do our job of getting the American consumer to conserve energy.

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