Social sciences: understanding public perceptions of CO2-reducing energy projects

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Social sciences: understanding public perceptions of CO2-reducing energy projects

The transition to a carbon-less energy system will take several decades. Until that time, storing CO2 emissions and replacing fossile fuels with biomass fuels must become priorities. While these questions might seem to be purely technical, researchers from Passages offer a look at their repercussions on the inhabitants of the areas directly effected by projects that are already in place or are still in the planning stages.

Injecting CO2 underground was originally conceived of as the reversal of hydrocarbon extraction. The vast empty geological reservoirs were to be filled with combustion "waste". Socially, projects of this type were already perceived as worrisome. Today, in the same underground, we extract geothermal energy. Local CO2 emissions are dissolved into the water generated in the process and then sent into the area's substrate. This kind of project creates new fears and other forms of social friction.

Biomass fuels also proves problematic for the local area. Limiting the cost of transportation and CO2 emissions would require local management of biomass resources. However, fluctuations in demand in the wood industry, variations in oil prices and local variations in the cost of wood exploitations make it difficult to predict the volume avaible where the energy is to be consumed.

Similarly, an ecologically optimized use of biogas resources would require injecting bio-methan directly into gas distribution networks.

This economic model requires large-scale installations and a supply perimeter up to 30 kilometers. Local residents, unhappy with prospect of receiving "other people's trash", use the courts to paralyze these initiatives.

It thus becomes crucial to understand how to construct the social legitimacy of these projects.