SP4. Public Perceptions of the Environmental Impacts
Primary research on public perceptions of the environmental impacts of shale gas exploration and development need to be an integral part of any recommendations on best practices, and the foundations for such research will be laid in this subprogram. Shale gas holds out the possibility of contributing to Europe’s energy security while also raising profound questions of ethics, governance and above all public perceptions and acceptability. History is replete with examples of new technologies (e.g. nuclear power and radioactive waste, biotechnology, carbon capture and storage) that have generated significant environmental controversy. As events in the USA and UK already demonstrate shale gas has the potential to do likewise. There is an urgent need to understand (1) how various European publics might construe and respond to the issue of shale gas and its associated risks and extraction operations contextualised against any potential European benefits, (2) which issues underlie responses (e.g. concerns about risks, trust or governance) and what lessons for regulation and governance can be gleaned from experience with shale so far in the USA, and (3) what lessons can be learned from experience with other controversial energy technologies. The current work-program will contribute to primary in-depth research into European perceptions and attitudes while also delivering interim conclusions for policy from our existing knowledge. This subprogram cuts across the technical issues being studied in the other subprograms. The objective here is to determine how the technical issues that have been identified compare to the ones that the public are most concerned about.