Fuel Costs Boost Conservation Efforts; 7 in 10 Reducing 'Carbon Footprint'

Why? A third say they're taking conservation measures mainly to improve the environment, but a quarter instead say it's mainly to save money -- and more, 41 percent, say it's for both reasons equally.

Among the nearly three in 10 who are not trying to reduce their carbon footprint, reasons vary, but a fifth say it's mainly because they simply don't know how to proceed, which suggests they might take action given more information. Others are more resistant: More than half in this group say it's unnecessary, too expensive, too inconvenient, won't do any good, or that they just aren't interested.

Beyond conserving, many consumers are buying products that are marketed as environmentally friendly. Three-quarters believe such products truly are better for the environment; two-thirds try to buy them at least occasionally; and nearly half, 46 percent, try to buy them "whenever possible."

Nearly seven in 10 also say such products have become more available in the last few years -- an example of the market meeting consumer interest.

Who's Responsible for Going Green?

Businesses, in another measure, get as much trust as the government in reducing global warming: The public divides evenly, 43-45 percent, on which would do a better job -- the government, through laws intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; or businesses, through market competition.

Nonetheless, 61 percent also say the federal government should do more than it's doing now to try to reduce global warming, down somewhat from its 2006 and 2007 levels (68 and 70 percent) though still easily a majority. There are vast partisan gaps on both questions, with Democrats far more supportive of government action, Republicans far less so.

As noted, 44 percent think measures to reduce global warming will cause financial hardship to people like them. However, fewer, 32 percent, believe such efforts will damage the U.S. economy, even if other countries don't follow suit – and as many, 33 percent, say taking unilateral action actually would help the U.S. economy.

That result runs counter to the Bush administration's position that action must be matched by other countries to avoid putting the United States at an economic disadvantage.

Among possible government actions, 78 percent support stricter fuel efficiency standards for cars, 63 percent favor oil drilling in coastal waters where it's currently prohibited, 55 percent favor drilling in wilderness areas, 61 percent say the government should restrict oil trading by investors and 55 percent favor higher taxes on oil company profits. (Barack Obama, notably, shifted this past week toward offshore drilling.)

There are sharp partisan gaps here, as well; Republicans are 20 or more points more apt than Democrats to support oil drilling in currently closed areas, while Democrats are far more likely to favor a windfall oil tax, higher fuel standards and restrictions on oil trading. Non-environmentalists and environmentalists divide on most of these as well.

There are great divisions, as well, on nuclear power plants: Sixty percent of Republicans favor building more of them; just 33 percent of Democrats agree.

And there's a huge gap between the sexes: Sixty percent of men, but just 29 percent of women, favor building nuclear plants. And while nuclear power has been proposed as a partial solution to global warming, its support notably low, just 25 percent, among people who see global warming as an "extremely" important problem.

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