Report finds Europeans highly supportive of biofuels

By Erin Voegele | November 15, 2010
Posted Nov. 22, 2010

On Nov. 11 the European Commission released the results of a biotechnology report that explores public perceptions of biotechnology, including biofuels. Over all, the Eurobarometer survey found that 80 percent of Europeans are either in favor of, or unopposed to, biotechnology.

Regarding biofuels, the report found 72 percent of Europeans feel that biofuels should be encouraged. Only 20 percent of respondents said that they should not. However, the intensity of support was also found to vary by country. Citizens of Denmark, Latvia and Slovakia were most supportive of biofuels, while lower percentages of citizens in Switzerland and Maltese said that biofuels should be encouraged. Even though the level support varied by country, the report's authors point out that respondents who think biofuels should not be encouraged do not outnumber those who think they should be encouraged in any country surveyed.

There was also a difference in support for biofuels based on certain socioeconomic factors. Respondents from rural areas were more likely to think that biofuels should be encouraged when compared to those from large urban areas. Age was also a factor, with 74 percent of respondents between the ages of 15 and 24 stating that biofuels should be encouraged. Only 63 percent of those age 55 and older said the same. According to the report, religion and awareness did not appear to be factors contributing to biofuels support.

The report also notes that when those surveyed were specifically asked their opinions of sustainable biofuels, they reported even higher degrees of support, with 83 percent stating that sustainable biofuels should be encouraged. This is an 11 percent increase over those who said that biofuels in general should be encouraged.

Although most respondents were supportive of biofuels, they did not report that they have a great deal of faith in potential for technology to solve climate change. In fact, only 26 percent said that technology will be able to stop climate change without impacting their way of life and reducing economic growth.

In addition to biofuels and climate change, the report also gauged the status of public opinion regarding genetically modified foods, nanotechnology, cloning, gene transfer, synthetic biology, and a wide range of other biotechnology innovations.

"These findings are very encouraging," said EuopaBio Secretary General Nathalie Moll. "They show that Europeans increasingly understand and appreciate the benefits that biotechnology brings to them in terms of healthier, longer lives, cleaner, greener products and processes and increased food and energy security. In particular, we are delighted by the overwhelming support for medical biotechnology and for the strong support shown for crop-based and nonfood based biofuels."

Article first appeared in Biorefining magazine