UK Research Calls for Early Public Debate on Green Fuels

Researchers found that many people see hydrogen technology as an opportunity to regenerate their communities, reduce carbon emissions and live more sustainably; and they want more involvement in decisions.

Published: 20-Dec-2007

Researchers from the University of Salford have found that policy-makers' assumptions that the public are sceptical about hydrogen fuels and other green policies are not always correct and that communities want to be more involved when strategies are being developed.

A four year, £405,400 study from the Salford team, now completed, studied hydrogen production and consumption sites in Wales, Teesside and London, and gauged local public opinion and that of government agencies and industry.

Another £120,000 project for the Department for Transport has also looked at the view on hydrogen energy in transport among potential users in Norwich, Sheffield and Southampton, areas which do not have embryonic hydrogen developments.

The research team was led by sociologists Professors Rob Flynn and Paul Bellaby. Rob said: "Many policy makers assume that the public are ill-informed about, and resistant to, measures to prevent climate change and, as a result, tend to exclude them when developing policy.

"Through systematic research we've discovered that this is not the case. Many people see hydrogen technology as an opportunity to regenerate their communities, reduce carbon emissions and live more sustainably. They want to be involved from the start so that any concerns or suggestions can be taken into account."

The research has now been extended for four more years and awarded over £500,000 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council - to allow the team to do further research into how to integrate public opinion with policy-making.

Rob said: "We'll be using 'citizens' panels' which allow a representative section of the public to tell scientists and politicians what they think and ask them questions. That way, when a hydrogen energy strategy is produced it will be with the informed views of the public taken into account."

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