Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Environmental Studies

Thesis Advisor

Andrea M. Feldpausch-Parker

Keywords

scientific literacy, alternative energy, conservation, media coverage

Abstract

For energy technologies such as biomass energy, an area concentrated on the alternative creation of energy through the use of organic matter such as wood, mass media and other online sources work to frame public perceptions of our energy system. In addition to being sources of information, they also serve as a space for public discourse. Two such sources for information that frame the implementation and study of biomass are newspaper reporting and online information through proponent websites. In this study we collected biomass proponent websites and biomass themed articles in four newspapers located near New York biomass research sites. To examine how biomass technology is framed for public readership in the state, we analyzed text using the socio- political evaluation of energy development (SPEED) framework, coding the materials to determine the tone of the materials as well as presence or absence of the following categories: technological, political, environmental, economic, aesthetic, health/safety and legal benefits and drawbacks. We found that newspaper and proponent websites vary in their content on biomass technologies, with newspaper articles generally putting more emphasis on economic aspects of the technology, and biomass industry websites putting more emphasis on environmental aspects. With this, we found that the aesthetic, legal and health/safety categories were minimal or nonexistent throughout all content. While there was a noted difference in the present categories of websites and news articles, we found that both were mostly positive in tone. Though this is true, the proponent websites were overwhelmingly positive with no negative aspects given.

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