NBB tests public's view of biodiesel

By | August 19, 2009
In an ongoing effort to increase biodiesel visibility, support and sales, the National Biodiesel Board is working to understand how the public perceives the alternative fuel. Working with Moore Information, NBB is overseeing a comprehensive research process that will provide the basis for future communications efforts. The project will give NBB members and biodiesel stakeholders' guidance about what drives and strengthens biodiesel support. This summer NBB held two focus groups to kick off the effort, one in Boston and one in Denver. The focus groups offered different regional and environmental perspectives.

In Boston, the 12 participants were identified as community leaders. Generally, the group was supportive of alternative energy, enthusiastic about home grown fuel and the more they heard about biodiesel, the more they liked it. While they were somewhat skeptical of detailed facts, they were impressed by biodiesel's benefits. Interestingly, biodiesel was not among the alternative energy sources with which they were familiar at the onset of the focus group, which demonstrates significant opportunities for education and biodiesel promotion.

In Denver, participants were identified as environmentally aware. Group members were familiar with biodiesel, even knowing many of biodiesel's attributes and benefits, and generally how it is made. They repeated some misconceptions about biodiesel, but additional information helped to strengthen their support and left several asking "where do we get it?" They were impressed by biodiesel's diversity and clean air benefits as well as the fact that biodiesel made from soybeans uses only the oil portion of the bean, leaving the meal available for food and feed. In contrast to the Boston group, this group easily differentiated biodiesel from other biofuels. However, after hearing negative messages, they were less certain of their support.
Highlights prepared by Moore Information from the focus groups include:

- The aspects of a "renewable" and "sustainable" fuel are appealing.
- Reducing our nation's reliance on foreign oil is a major benefit.
- Health benefits are important, for people and the environment.
- America should pursue biodiesel.

Overall the focus group reiterated what earlier studies demonstrated-support for biodiesel exists but is fragile. Most biodiesel "supporters" may be easily swayed by misconceptions or misinformation, emphasizing the critical importance of continued biodiesel education and communications efforts.

Information from the focus groups will be applied to develop and test specific biodiesel messages, and will empower stakeholders to effectively advocate biodiesel. This comprehensive research is the most extensive public opinion testing in NBB history.
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