Woody biomass outreach in the southern United States: A case study
Woody biomass is one potential renewable energy source that is technically feasible where environmental and economic factors are promising. It becomes a realistic option when it is also socially acceptable. Public acceptance and support of wood to energy proposals require community education and outreach. The Wood to Energy Outreach Program provides science-based information, tools, and resources for fostering informed community discussions about using wood for energy in the southern United States. The development of this program involved three research activities. (1) A small survey of the general public suggests that a lack of information and misconceptions will challenge biomass outreach programs. (2) Focus group discussions about text written to be memorable and interesting reveal that participants' mistrust and misconceptions might contribute to perceptions of bias in text, even when the text contains factual information. (3) Surveys of participants in community forums suggest that interacting with the public can increase knowledge, address misconceptions, and may be necessary to establish trust. This case study summarizes these research findings and evaluation findings for the Wood to Energy Outreach Program and suggests ways to increase the effectiveness of bioenergy outreach efforts.