Stakeholder Attitudes Toward Forest-Residual Based Biofuels in Washington State
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Residual-based biofuels potentially provide a renewable and technically feasible route of mitigating negative effects of climate change. Washington State is uniquely placed to develop biofuels given its abundance of woody biomass as feedstock. Forest residuals provide an excellent use of otherwise overly abundant forest fire hazards, and have the potential for economic profitability. However, ecological and economic arguments present only one side of the story. Others significantly oppose use of forest residuals as feedstock for bioenergy production. Use of forest residuals for biofuel production is therefore a socially contested phenomena within Washington State. It is important to understand the underpinnings of this contention in order to pinpoint and mitigate it to increase cooperation between decision-makers and stakeholders and overall social acceptability. My objective for this study was to understand stakeholder attitudes to illuminate points of contention and attitude change and suggest ways in which decision and policy makers can utilize these to promote more favorable attitudes towards residual based biofuels. Favorable attitudes are critical in reducing opposition and conflict between decision- and policy-makers and stakeholders to increase social acceptability. Results can be used to inform decision- and policy-making of stakeholder perceived benefits, constraints, and suggested solutions. I conducted key-stakeholder and focus group interviews that focused on the attitudes and perceptions informing expressed attitudes about using forest residuals as feedstock for biofuels production. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using deductive and inductive qualitative methods and NVivo software. Interviewees from Native American, political, government, and industry stakeholder groups held positive attitudes towards forest residuals as feedstock for biofuels, while nongovernment organizations and community members had mixed perspectives. Perceived benefits and constraints primarily focused on economic and ecological sustainability, with extensive deliberation and repeated occurrences in all interviews. Interviewees suggested three main solutions: research and preparation, persuasive communication and outreach, and management and policy. I make suggestions to decision- and policy-makers on how to use this research to create persuasive communication messages to increase social acceptability of a residual-based biofuels industry in Washington State.
- Forestry