WASHINGTON Most people believe oil is running out and governments need to find another fuel, but Americans are alone in thinking their leaders are out of touch with reality on this issue, an international poll said on Sunday.
On average, 70 percent of respondents in 15 countries and the Palestinian territories said they thought oil supplies had peaked. Only 22 percent of the nearly 15,000 respondents in nations ranging from China to Mexico believed enough new oil would be found to keep it a primary fuel source.
"What's most striking is there's such a widespread consensus around the world that oil is running out and governments need to make a real effort to find new sources of energy," said Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, a global research organization that conducted the poll.
Concerns over climate change, which is spurred by emissions from fossil fuels including oil, also were a factor among respondents, Kull said.
The current tightening of the oil market is not temporary but will continue and the price of oil will rise substantially, most respondents said.
"They think it's just going to keep going higher and a fundamental adaptation is necessary," Kull said in a telephone interview.
In the United States, the world's biggest oil consumer and among the biggest emitters of climate-warming pollution from fossil fuel use, 76 percent of respondents said oil is running out, but most believed the U.S. government mistakenly assumes there would be enough to keep oil a main source of fuel.
U.S. GOVERNMENT "NOT FACING REALITY"
"Americans perceive that the government is not facing reality," Kull said.
The United States is alone among major industrialized nations in rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to limit greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate global warming.
Last week, President George W. Bush said U.S. greenhouse emissions, especially carbon dioxide spewed by the burning of fossil fuels like oil, would stop growing by 2025 but gave no details on how this would come about.
The announcement drew sharp criticism from environmental groups. Others pointed out this means emissions will continue to grow for the next 17 years.
Only in Nigeria did a majority -- 53 percent -- believe enough new oil would be found to keep it a primary energy source, a reflection of its status as a major oil exporter and member of OPEC.
The poll was conducted in China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, Britain, France, Iran, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey, South Korea and the Palestinian territories.
The margin of error varied from country to country, ranging from plus or minus 3 percentage points to plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, Kull said.
WorldPublicOpinion.org involves research centers around the world, and the locations of these centers determined which countries were included in the poll. Kull noted that the poll included countries that make up 58 percent of the global population.
The project is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)
(For more Reuters information on the environment, see blogs.reuters.com/environment/ )