Consider the source: public perception of bioenergy and land use change

newpubDoes the feedstock affect how people evaluate bioenergy? Bioenergy has been viewed as a positive development in terms of energy independence and mitigating climate change impacts. It may provide economic returns to landowners and local communities by providing additional revenue opportunities to traditional industries. In this study, we investigated how framing affect perception. In particular, do public–as opposed to landowner–perception differ when bioenergy feedstocks come from rowcrops as opposed to from woodlands? The study area was Crawford, Richland, and Vernon Counties in SW Wisconsin.

Citation: Spartz, J.T., M. Rickenbach, & B.R. Shaw. 2015. Public perceptions of bioenergy and land use change: Comparing narrative frames of agriculture and forestry. Biomass and Bioenergy 75(April 2010):1-10. doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2015.01.026

Highlights: (1) A natural experiment was used, framing bioenergy as an agricultural or forestry land use issue. (2) Croplands frame elicits perceived lower energy prices and increased well-being. (3) Woodlands frame elicits greater uncertainty overall and greater uncertainty regarding local energy prices.

Abstract: While much research has focused on landowner perspectives for producing biomass to supply potential future bioenergy demands, there has been relatively little research on regional public opinion and perceptions of land use change associated with bioenergy production. This project investigates perceptions of potential bioenergy land use among the general public by using a natural experiment employing narrative frames of agriculture and forestry. Results show differences in public perceptions given these two narrative land use frames. Relatively high levels of uncertainty were found across both frames, especially related to perceptions of future impacts on local energy prices in the forestry frame. Understanding how land use frames can influence perceptions about bioenergy system development can help facilitate more effective communication while addressing potential uncertainties when moderating or participating in stakeholder group deliberation regarding bioenergy and related land use change.

Related: radio interview during survey,

About the authors: James Spartz is a recent PhD graduate from the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication and a current faculty member at Unity CollegeMark Rickenbach writes this blog. Bret Shaw is an associate professor and extension specialists in the Department of Life Sciences Communication.

Funding and project support: This project was funded in part by the Kickapoo Valley Reforestation Fund and the Hatch Research Program (Grant #WIS01633) of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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