Pre-development Research to Understand Stakeholder Perceptions of Energy Development in Environmentally Sensitive Areas Conference Paper uri icon


  • 2017, Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC). Historically, the lack of broad-scale stakeholder input has often led to public resistance and divisive confrontations that have slowed or even terminated the development of many unconventional energy developments. Our group has studied both previous and proposed projects in environmentally sensitive areas to understand community views of newly proposed technology and the public's perceptions of such technology. Using low temperature geothermal energy (LTGE) as an analog to other types of new energy development, we selected a Texas Gulf Coast county for our study. A thorough study of that county's residents using questionnaires, focus group discussions, and personal interviews showed a clear message from the community that they need to receive knowledgeable (and credible) information about events and developments that will impact them. Factual knowledge about events or developments that would impact a community is welcomed, but must be available in an open unbiased manner. Finally, environmental capital, or the environmental resources of the community, is a term the community believes in, and highly values, even if the concept is not actually couched in that manner. This study also investigated whether the manner in which new information is presented can affect its acceptance. Results indicated that framing an issue consistent with a person's environmental orientation could indeed affect its acceptance. Using framing techniques as a vehicle for knowledge transfer (before beginning an energy development project), could induce recipients to be more willing to listen to new information, rather than immediately dismissing it out of hand. This could in turn, lead to more informed decisions which may end up reducing resistance and enhance support for new energy projects. We suggest that these results can be used as guidelines when considering projects in such new areas. We have labeled efforts to provide a dialog with the community as pre-development research. Findings show clearly that to reduce the probability of such resistance and divisive actions, pre-development research would be beneficial and serves as an effective tool to address societal issues and attitudes regarding energy development. As soon as development of an energy source is determined to be technically, economically, and environmentally feasible, the next step should be pre-development research within the community involved. The economic, social and environmental benefits are enormous and should be a factor in almost every company's' evaluation of new energy development.

name of conference

  • Proceedings of the 5th Unconventional Resources Technology Conference

published proceedings

  • Proceedings of the 5th Unconventional Resources Technology Conference

author list (cited authors)

  • Higgins, M. E., Burnett, D. B., Kreuter, U., & Haut, R. C.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Higgins, ME||Burnett, DB||Kreuter, U||Haut, RC

publication date

  • January 2017