I have always been interested in alternative energy projects as well as forest ecology. Alternative energy, in the past, has had difficulty gaining ground in the U.S. due to the relative cheap cost of fossil fuels. It now appears that this cost advantage is slipping and will continue to do so.
Now we have a chance, on a regional basis, to create an industry that can both supply renewable energy and serve to protect and value forest lands in Maine. This is a very exciting time and the university has given me an opportunity to work on a new and promising energy project.
My role is to analyze the general public’s views and attitudes toward the emerging forest-based bioproducts industry. Specifically, we will be examining public perceptions of the potential impact this industry will have on the forests and communities of Maine. We plan on conducting a mail survey in early 2008 which will be sent to 2,000 households in Maine. Through this survey we hope to gain a better understanding of the public’s attitudes toward this emerging industry. We hope that this information will be useful in formulating public policy to meet social concerns that will arise as the industry becomes established.
The social acceptability of the bio-products industry is being studied through an inter-disciplinary basis. In conjunction with my research, Ana Zivanovic from the Business School will be analyzing secondary stakeholders such as activist groups, NGOs, and state officials. Between her work and mine, we should be able to provide significant insight into the social acceptability of the bio-products industry.
In Other Words
Just as windmills and hydro projects have faced public opposition in Maine and elsewhere, the forest-based bioproducts industry may face scrutiny as well. We hope to gain, through this research, an understanding of these issues prior to the establishment of the industry. Hopefully, this understanding will lead to policy that will help the industry anticipate and address public concerns before they become controversies.