(CNN) -- With fuel prices on the rise, concern over global warming growing and the 2008 presidential campaign heating up, CNN.com asked users if they thought the country was poised for major changes in energy and environmental policies. Here is a selection of responses, some of which have been edited for clarity.
As gas prices have climbed, Americans have sought alternatives, including public transportation.
Tom Fafard of Winnetka, California
Americans are blind and will continue to want it their way. The only sure way for us to switch to better transportation methods is to have a tax on fuel that really bites hard. Raise the taxes to $2 per gallon (more than they currently are) and people will demand an alternative. Before then, forget it -- nothing will change.
Dan Pyun of Carrboro, North Carolina
Not while politicians are being funded by oil companies and morons are driving SUVs, especially in cities.
Andrew Weaver of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
As a recent college graduate from an engineering program, I have noticed how, just over the past two years, general attitudes towards the inter-related topics of energy and the environment have changed. Policy issues such as renewable energy subsidies, fuel economy standards and carbon credits are not only taught in my curriculum but are even brought up between friends in social settings like bars and restaurants with many students having strong, well-informed opinions about the need for change. Energy and environmental issues involve long-term consequences if immediate action is not taken, and the most recent wave of college graduates does not seem to be as complacent as older generations with inaction.
Ryan Woodrum of Seattle, Washington
I remain a skeptic. There are two major factors at play here: The first is the ignorance and indifference of the American populace. Until America is posed with a more imminent danger, at which point it will be too late, Americans will be more concerned with entertainment industry gossip than being responsible humans living on the planet Earth. The second are the oil companies. The problem with oil companies is just that -- for too long they have thought of themselves as oil companies. They are not oil companies. They are energy companies. It's time to move on.
Betty Greenspan of Silver Spring, Maryland
We need to be doing something! Why are we way behind everyone else in saving this world? Congress needs to get off their butts and start demanding that we do something now! They have all the necessary tools, why not use them? Solar power is needed now! Stop thinking of the dollars and start thinking of saving the planet!
Jason Gregory of Erie, Pennsylvania
I compare the situation as to smoking. When we were young we found cigarettes. We started off slow, maybe smoking one after school and a couple on the weekends. Then once we got old enough we got addicted. We started smoking a pack a day, then two packs a day. I kind of correlate that to the industrial revolution. We were young and thought it wasn't going to hurt us. We enjoyed the returns and didn't care about the impact. Then as time went on we got older. Started to notice a shortness of breath and coughing in the morning. Never really worrying about it, we just kept on smoking. Now here we are older, noticing the signs that something worse could possibly be happening to us. The question becomes, do we ignore those signs? Do we go on thinking nothing bad can happen to us and that all this is just a cycle that the Earth goes through? What if it's the signs of lung cancer? We cannot get a transplant for Earth. Do we take heed to the signs, cut back on our smoking, whether or not anything harmful is actually happening? Would it really hurt us to try become more green? I don't think so.
Patrick Brown of Kirkland, Washington
I think many of the energy-saving options such as public transportation are coming too late to many cities across America at a huge cost. In Seattle, for example, we are just getting our first bit of light rail from downtown to the airport in 2009. Such advances have come at the price of redeveloping infrastructure that could have already been in place with smart planning by county, city, state and federal authorities. Having lived in Europe for many years I enjoyed cheap public transport and didn't mind not having a car ... especially when I was only paying 40 euros per month to go anywhere I wanted.
Cristian Crespo of Valley Village, California
We love our cars in this country. To be more specific, we love our trucks and SUVs. It's not that Americans don't want to be environmentally friendly, it's just that we don't have much of a choice. As an SUV driver, telling me that my only alternative is a Toyota Prius or a Honda Civic is like telling me to eat beef jerky when I'm used to filet mignon. I find it ridiculous that other technologies have become so much more advanced, and yet it's been well over 100 years since the gasoline engine was invented and we haven't come up with an alternative yet. The message to car companies has to be, "If you build it, we will drive it". If I could get the same power, comfort and luxury from a more fuel efficient vehicle, I would most definitely drive it -- just don't charge me an arm and a leg for it.
Diedre Gish of Lake St. Louis, Missouri
For the sake of every living thing on this planet, I sincerely hope that something will be done to wean the North American dependence on foreign oil. Just looking at other articles on today's CNN Web page -- flooding in Texas and wildfires in Lake Tahoe -- is cause for alarm. Increasingly extreme weather is linked to global warming. If we don't drastically reduce our oil addiction in favor of things like renewable energy, and reduce this country's carbon emissions, we will see much greater economic hardships as we deal with more natural disasters. I pray that lawmakers will do the right thing and pass sound energy legislation that dramatically increases mileage standards for vehicles, requires energy companies to use more renewable sources, enact stronger pollution controls when dealing with coal power, and fund more research for renewable energy.
Evan Clark of Setauket, New York
Not as long as a Texas oil man and his buddies control the White House. Did people seriously expect any different?
Susan Petersen of Fruitland, Idaho
I certainly hope so! I don't expect to see much done. The big oil companies are making record profits and won't want to change that. I believe the auto industry has the technology to make changes now but are in with the oil companies ... making money is more important. Then there are our leaders. Bush and Cheney are oil men. Their only interest is making money. Things won't be changing any time soon.
Steve Mascarella of Troy, Ohio
I am very skeptical that anything effective will be done. Congress is composed mostly of lawyers, their advisers are mostly political science graduates, and these issues (energy and environment) are based in science. We are asking people with extremely limited scientific backgrounds to understand the science behind the issues. The solutions require optimizing the resources, not blanket conversions to alternatives. Bring together engineers in the country to develop solutions, mute the Al Gores who have only a cursory grasp of the problems.
Paul Cummings of Austin, Texas
I am a middle-aged, conservative, mostly Republican-voting, SUV-loving (well, small SUV) male. I hope for, and think we desperately need, a change in our energy policy. I would like to see much more money and effort put toward solar, wind and other alternative energy sources -- even next-generation nuclear plants to replace the coal and natural gas ones. I would like to see mandated a complete phasing out of all gas-powered cars -- forget hybrids! Let's make the push toward all-electric cars now! Let us hope our leaders and our citizenry have both the courage and determination to make this happen today -- not 50 years from now when it is too late for our children's children, who will suffer for our intransigence regarding oil, both in terms of quality of life, and in dealing with the continuing problem of well-funded-by-U.S.-purchased-oil terrorists.
Michelle Comingore of Tallahassee, Florida
I think we will continue to make strides towards reducing greenhouse gases and trying to mitigate global climate change. However, the arrogance that is America will prevail in some segments of society. We will not see the end of gas-guzzling vehicles until even the rich can't afford them or they are no longer a status symbol.
Todd Wallace of Shepherdsville, Kentucky
I remember very clearly the founding of OPEC back in 1974. We have had 33 years now to do something concrete about our dependence upon foreign oil and all we've done as a nation is allow that dependence to grow and grow. If over that time serious investment and R&D had been done with alternate sources of energy we would not be where we are today; certainly not in Iraq, and there would be a whole lot less gunk in the atmosphere today warming the environment artificially. To get the powers-that-be at the federal and state levels to finally do something will take "We the People." And we will have to scream so as to be heard over the money (which talks) that special interests groups -- i.e. big oil, etc., who have their agendas maintaining the status quo -- will spend to keep any real change to the bare minimum. Sadly, I don't know if we have it in us as a people to make anything lasting happen. We live now in a nation of people consumed by overall self-interest, self-indulgence and an all-too-infamous NIMBY attitude. A people whose patriotism doesn't seem to extend past a magnetic ribbon on the fender of our cars. A people who prefer knowing more about what happens to Paris Hilton than the details behind the two men who won the Medal of Honor in Iraq and gave their lives in doing so. So, I will remain a skeptic until proven otherwise. Something I honest hope will happen.
Monica Makowski of Elk Grove Village, Illinois
I believe the recent focus on global warming is just a phase in preparation for the 2008 campaign and by current climate changes, i.e. glacier, lakes, rivers disappearing and graver weather storms developing across the world. In reality, if the nation/consumers were really concerned, then more environmentally efficient products and entrepreneurs would exist in free markets. ... To some extent, I believe the slow progress/failure on environmental improvement is to be blamed on our American culture. For instance, why do consumers buy big energy-wasting homes, cars, non-essential luxury goods, etc.?
Michael Diamant of Koloa, Hawaii
For over 30 years, the government and the people have known about the need for alternative fuels. Witness the oil embargo of the 1970s and what hasn't happened since them. Witness the current cost of gasoline and the huge profits going to the oil industry. The lobbyists for the auto and oil industries are more impressive and more powerful than the facts. We have had the chance to be creative and innovative, but it appears that the only way something will change is by crisis intervention.
Greg Isaacs of Charlotte, North Carolina
Current "green" ideas are trendy at best. Both the general population and the federal government need to address why we are not self reliant rather than quick-fix ideas from Wal-Mart. The answer to that problem lies in the U.S. city infrastructure, but it may be several years before this is realized. The benefits of a hybrid car are cancelled out when it is driven 50 miles every day past old decaying neighborhoods to the latest and greatest neighborhood with the new Wal-Mart. Twenty-five years from now that neighborhood will be next in the line of decaying towns as the newest one is popping up even farther outside the city. Especially here in the South, unsustainable growth is rampant. We are building our lives around the car culture, making it impractical, unsafe and even more inefficient to use any other type of transportation. We are capable of building a way of life not dependent on traffic jams but we refuse to do it. We need government incentives for quality redevelopment of existing buildings, for multi-use buildings in communities, and for self-reliant energy use. I work in construction and the advances in materials are there, we just need to quit building cheap wooden houses in the country and forcing everyone to drive across town for a gallon of milk.
Michael Gaal of Alexandria, Virginia
I think the social revolution over this has already begun. Look at any car commercial and what are the first words out of the announcer's mouth? MPG. Maybe that's just a selling point, but auto manufacturers are taking it seriously. Americans have begun to sell their Hummers and SUVs in record numbers. I did and so did many of my friends and family. The politics have yet to come into play in my mind. With all of the alternative fuels out there, the government should scale back military spending (I am no anti-military person) and put it into alternative fuels. Algae is a new fuel that is set to come out along with ethanol and hydrogen. We as one of the greatest nations on earth need to stand up unite with the world, through the Kyoto protocol or otherwise, and make a firm stand saying that we are ready to improve this world for ourselves and our children.
Mary Ann Fowler of Pensacola, Florida
I think a lot of progress will be made in the next few years because more and more high-profile movie stars, sports figures, etc. will get on board with making changes. There's a very large group of our population that wouldn't throw a beer can away if NASCAR told them not to, or would ride a bike if they saw Johnny Depp doing so. Our thinking needs to change from convenient and immediate to the way our grandparents thought. "I'll get it Saturday, when I have to go to town anyway." Of course, I doubt if disposable diapers will ever be replaced, and it sure is nice to have a bottle of cold water handy instead of a tin bucket and a dipper! Still, I try on a daily basis to at least not make it worse. Maybe many, many others are quietly doing the same.
Robin Heyer of Bozeman, Montana
To answer your question, not as long as CNN continues to tell us we are more interested in Paris Hilton serving time than the fact that seven species go extinct every day. The only top story to be reporting on is our headlong rush into a brick wall, led by American consumerism and government-sanctioned gluttony. It's time to stop the madness. It may even be too late.
Dean Cassano of Lakeland, Florida
Change U.S. energy policy? You must be joking! Washington is sold out to the environmentalists and tourists. The 1973 oil crisis did nothing to wake us up. We should have been drilling in ANWAR and the Gulf ever since. If we had started this then (30 years ago!), then our present-day dependency would be nil and our foreign policy would reflect that. Bah humbug!
Jesse Santi of Oshkosh, Wisconsin
I don't think anything will be done socially. People seen to have a mindset that the latest and greatest technology will lower our energy consumption for us. In order to lower our energy usage we have to adapt lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are the only true way to lower energy consumption and lower negative impacts on the environment. If our goal is to lower energy consumption, then we have to change our lifestyles. Waiting for our government or new technology to lower energy consumption for us is not going to work.
Eric Pace of Charlotte, North Carolina
I think the USA is headed towards energy independence in a big way. Having just graduated from college in nuclear and mechanical engineering, I know that there are huge plans for growth in not only the nuclear engineering field but the power industry as a whole. Groups such as the Electric Power Research Institute are predicting growth in all aspects of power production and are actually seeing a trending of new power production in the green energies. Organizations such as the Department of Energy are dishing out large sums of money in new energy research such as fusion and other green energies. Congress as well as most energy organizations are seriously looking into using power plants to fuel the proposed "hydrogen economy" as well as using the excess heat produced from inefficient energy production at power plants in industrial centers as a steam source. While I don't think that energy independence is right around the corner, I believe that our country is taking huge strides towards that end. E-mail to a friend
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