A recent survey regulated by University of Wisconsin researchers shows nearly 70 percent of Wisconsin residents are supportive of using and producing biofuels, though divisions do exist along party lines.
The survey, handled by the UW Survey Center, was a result of more than 600 telephone interviews with Wisconsin residents between April and June.
Although residents of the state of Wisconsin as a whole showed overwhelming support for the use of biofuel, there were clear issues along partisan lines as far as funding for these biofuels goes.
“Even though we saw support across partisan lines, we also saw that there were clear ideological rifts among Democrats and Republicans on certain issues,” said Dietram Scheufele, researcher and professor of life sciences communication at UW.
According to Scheufele, two-thirds of Democrats believed government involvement in the funding of biofuels is a good idea, while three-fourths of the Republicans who were surveyed believed it should run on free market principles.
On the other hand, both Democrats and Republicans agreed that without pressure from the government, the oil industry’s investment in biofuel will cease to occur, Scheufele said.
Both parties agreed biofuels would help boost the economy while also protecting the environment. The belief that biofuels burn cleaner than regular gasoline and that biofuels are less of a burden to the environment was a particular agreement that both Republicans and Democrats shared, Scheufele said.
“Overall [it] bodes well for the future of biofuel in Madison,” Scheufele said. “It shows that the general population is for biofuels and that it is strong among partisan lines.”
As far as the city of Madison is concerned, one plant is already converting to biofuel. The Charter Street Heating Plant has recently announced it will switch from burning coal to biofuel.
“This step was a combination of advanced planning, leadership from Gov. [Jim] Doyle to create market for renewable fuels and eliminate burning coal and also legal action from the Sierra Club,” said Alan Fish, UW director for facilities planning and management.
According to Fish, the Charter Street Heating Plant’s conversion to biofuel was initiated by the state and university.
“The university and state has said that we don’t have that much of a market for renewable fuels right now, but by the university taking this step we can jump-start that market,” Fish said.
Although the idea of biofuel being applied to the city and state has had reasonably high support, the issue between Republicans and Democrats over who should be involved will remain at a standstill, Sheufele said. Before any type of decision on the use of biofuel is made there will have to be some type of agreement between both parties.
“Even though we are seeing two different solutions, both sides have agreed that we need to move forward,” Scheufele said. “The best way to overcome this is to sit down and figure out what the best strategies are.”