Public Attitudes towards Biofuels

A recent article published in Energy Policy has attempted to reach a consensus about how the public feels about the ongoing biofuel technologies, and also policies associated with them.  Despite these rapid developments in the industry, there is very little research/studies about public attitudes regarding specific biofuel technologies and renewable energy policies. While a few public surveys have included questions about biofuels, they have been direct and limited to broad measures of approval or disapproval, with minimal attention to differences among specific technologies or policy options.  So, in order to gain a sense of public feelings, these researchers conducted a poll limited to residents in the state of Michigan.  Over 70% had agreed that the use of biofuels was a good idea while 30% said that use of ethanol increases environmental problems.  The study entails an extensive list of questions and the % for or against, and they can be found here.  The researchers performed a similar study in Indiana and included detailed accounts of the demographics of the participants. They found that participants were less knowledgeable about biofuels policies than technologies, as they expected. 45% were aware that the government has enacted any policies to promote biofuels, and only 50% or fewer realized that ethanol was currently subsidized . Furthermore, provided with a list of possible policies and asked to select those they believed to be in effect, respondents were unable on average to distinguish actual from imaginary policies.  Sure it is necessary to try and reproduce these results at a national level, but it seems clear the there should be a need for a heightened public awareness about both the technologies and policies associated with biofuels.  If there isn’t, people will not intellectually be able to pass judgment and vote on important policies regarding biofuels.  They will, in essence, be voting ‘blindly’ without being acquainted with the full facts.


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