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Durham Energy Institute looks at public perception in the north east of England
‘What do the public think of CCS and how important is it to gain acceptance?’ is a one of the $64,000 questions attached to CCS. Internationally, research is slowly gathering about CCS public engagement. However, I’d characterise the data in one word, ‘emerging’, and any new insight into public thinking is definitely valuable. As such, when I was informed that Durham Energy Institute, the energy research arm of one of the UK’s leading universities, was running a public debate to examine CCS perception, it felt like an opportunity not to miss.
The event was run as part of PhD being conducted in DEI, an experiment on how information shapes public opinion of the technology and an opportunity for the public to voice concerns and ask questions to a panel. The panel was made up of opponents and proponents of CCS –a Professor of CCS from Durham University, Jon Gluyas, a Member of Parliament, Roberta Blackman-Woods, a social enterprise expert, Ross Wendle and a member of the Green Party, Sandy Irvine. The audience were surveyed on CCS before and after the debate. Unfortunately, we are going to have to wait for the results until later on in 2011 but we can review the issues that were raised.
The attendees were a cross-section, including retired individuals, interested public, students, employees of companies in the region involved in CCS and local academia. (It should be noted that the debate was held as part of a science festival and not a ‘local community’ per se.) Tickets were advertised through a number of avenues, including through the science festival and the media. The chair introduced the technological process of CCS and general arguments as to ‘Why Use CCS? and ‘Can it be done?’. The panel introduced themselves and their positions on CCS and then the debate was opened to the floor.
What is interesting about the event proceedings is the issues that were raised. (It should be noted that there are currently no plans to store CO2 onshore in the UK.) While most of us would expect the big focus to be on the safety aspects of CCS and the economic impact on the area, the issues raised were about cost, the knock on effects on renewables and the energy mix.
The audience raised the following issues:
- The impact of the Japanese Tsunami on UK energy policy and coal
- The potential of European renewable resources and a supergrid to reduce emissions
- The timeframes for implementing CCS in relation to other solutions
- The safety of storing CO2 underground
- The efficiency penalty and the cost/need to use more resources to power CCS
- The level of international action on climate change and carbon abatement
To me, it seems the concerns were not ‘Is CCS dangerous?’ but instead ‘Is CCS a good idea?’. In general, the questions led to a very comprehensive debate on energy, climate change, climate action, efficiency, politics, equity, social risks and environmental responsibility…to name but a few. Interestingly, the only question that received a general consensus from the panel was that safety is not a big issue.
Lindsey, be prudent and hold your tongue for the results to be published. However, I will say it’s interesting to see the public of the North East of England wanting to know the context of CCS and not just the content.
Anyone else feel the world on our shoulders?
The entire debate can be viewed on: http://www.livestream.com/durhamenergyinstitutetv/video?clipId=flv_29f8a94d-fce0-4b63-83e2-ea2e707f9194