The Impact of Efficacy, Values, and Knowledge on Public Preferences Concerning Food-Water-Energy Policy Tradeoffs

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Nov 11;17(22):8345. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17228345.


Food, water, and energy (FWE) policies often entail contentious tradeoffs. For example, increasing food production may involve irrigation from riparian sources that may adversely impact fisheries habitats, the siting of solar energy on agricultural lands can impact food production, and increasing food production capacity may require pesticides in certain locations, resulting in environmental pollution. Because public preferences are an important component of support for and opposition to FWE policy design and implementation, it is important to understand the correlates of support and opposition to FWE policy tradeoffs. Using survey data from random household surveys conducted in western U.S. states during 2018, this study examined how environmental efficacy, values, and knowledge affected FWE public tradeoff preferences. The findings suggest that these characteristics do affect public FWE tradeoff preferences, with knowledge being a strong driver of support for food production over biofuels, water friendly crops over meat production and conservation over water intensive agriculture. Additionally, environmental efficacy and pro-ecological attitudes drive support for access to safe drinking water and sanitation over food security for a growing population.

Keywords: energy access; environmental efficacy; environmental values; food security; food–energy policy tradeoffs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture* / economics
  • Agriculture* / standards
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Knowledge*
  • Policy*
  • Social Values*
  • Water Supply* / economics
  • Water Supply* / standards