Consumers and energy industry executives don't often agree on the solutions needed to solve U.S. energy challenges, but a survey commissioned by Deloitte & Touche found some surprising areas of mutual understanding.

The number one issue -- for both consumers and industry executives -- is dependence on oil from places unfriendly to U.S. interests, according to the survey. A total of 29% of oil and natural gas executives and 27% of consumers surveyed cited this as the most critical energy issue facing America.

"The majority of the world's oil and gas reserves are located in places many consider unfriendly to the U.S. With the growing trend toward energy resource nationalism, it is easy to understand the anxiety about being too reliant on these sources," said Gary Adams, vice chairman, U.S. Oil & Gas leader of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP. "It is a troublesome trend for consumers and industry executives and ranks as their number one concern in the survey."

The Deloitte survey, "The Role of Oil & Gas Companies in Solving U.S. Energy Issues," was conducted by International Communications Research via the telephone in October. A total of 504 consumers were polled with a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 4%, and a total of 200 oil and gas executives were polled with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.9%.

The second highest concern cited by both groups was a lack of a "realistic" energy policy for America. It tied as the "greatest" concern among industry executives at 29% and also ranked number two among consumers with 18%.

"Regrettably, most of our national efforts to address long-term energy challenges have been politically inspired, piecemeal, short-term projects that fail to provide reassurance to the industry and consumers," said Adams. "Clearly, there is a strong appetite for a more coherent and comprehensive national energy policy."

Surprisingly, neither consumers nor industry executives reported heightened concern about energy conservation. A "lack of energy conservation" was a concern by only 9% of the consumers and 6% of the oil and gas executives.

Consumers are concerned about high gasoline prices (19%), while company executives reported concern about diminishing domestic energy supplies (20%) -- but neither was a shared concern by the other. In capital funding for alternative energy investments, 67% of the executives expect companies to allocate less than 20% of capital costs, while 55% of consumers agree that the commitment will be less than 20%. Consumers expressed a "strong desire" (72%) for more investments in developing alternative energy sources.

In another disconnect between consumers and the industry, 57% of the energy executives believe they are playing an important role in addressing and solving the nation's energy challenges; only 27% of the public agree.

Producers consider themselves best at solving U.S. energy problems (37%), while consumers rate themselves (27%) as the best problem solvers. Interestingly, each group held venture capitalists in high regard as problem solvers in energy (21% for consumers, 20% among industry). Consumers also rated the federal government higher (at 17%) as a problem solver than industry executives (10%).

"The survey showed that generally we still have some differing viewpoints between consumers and oil and gas companies," said Adams. "The industry needs to become more communicative and collaborative if it is to win public support for its efforts directed at solving our energy challenges and to improve alliances with consumers and politicians to develop a more coherent, long-term national energy policy."

As if illustrating the divide, 73% of the energy executives surveyed had a positive view about industry efforts to solve U.S. energy challenges, while only 12% of the public supported that view. By contrast, 50% of the public had negative views of the U.S. oil and gas industry.

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