Jerry Katz of National Foundation for Energy Education
Jerry Katz, president, National Foundation for Energy Education and developer of the Great American Energy Debate, recently stopped in Chicago to increase students’ knowledge on a wide variety of energy issues.

CHICAGO — The Mechanical Contractors Association Chicago (MCA Chicago) recently sponsored a day-long Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) event for local students as part of the Great American Energy Debate.

During the visit, MCA Chicago revealed the results of a nationwide survey that polled seventh- through 12th-grade students on energy use and knowledge. The results showed that students strongly believe technology will lead to a new energy future.

A total of 51 percent of respondents said they support taxpayer dollars to grow the wind and solar energy industries, while 22 percent opposed using taxpayer monies for the cause.

Students also felt that in the next 20 years, clean coal technology would be developed and would be competitive with other generating sources.

The role of alternative fuels during the next 20 years was also expected to boom, as respondents felt alternative fuel consumption would rise from less than 1 percent to 51 percent.

“Students’ expectations for renewable energy are way beyond reality,” said Jerry Katz, president, National Foundation for Energy Education. “For example, 8 percent of the nation’s energy comes from renewable sources. Our annual survey shows students think it’s 45 percent. They grossly overestimate the role renewable energies play. If students understood the science and economics behind renewable energy, they might be less optimistic about the role it will play in the future.”

Survey results further revealed students ranked themselves at 5.5 on how energy educated they considered themselves (on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being very educated and one being least educated). Students ranked their daily energy conservation at 4.8; rated the industry’s protection of the environment at 4.8; and rated the development of oil and gas from offshore areas at 5.3, with 10 being the most productive.

Students indicated fossil fuels as the primary cause of climate change; believe alternative fuels will produce 51 percent of energy by 2032; and ranked increasing production and consumption of natural gas, especially for electric power generation and transportation, at 5.1 — with 10 being most supportive. For more information, visit

Publication date: 05/28/2012