In the US South, wood-based bioenergy schemes are being promoted and implemented through a powerful vision merging social, environmental, and economic benefits for rural, forest-dependent communities. While this dominant narrative has led to heavy investment in experimental technologies and rural development, many complexities and complications have emerged during implementation. Forests as Fuel draws on extensive multi-sited ethnography to ground the story of wood-based bioenergy in the biophysical, economic, political, social, and cultural landscape of this region. This book contextualizes energy issues within the history and potential futures of the region’s forested landscapes, highlighting the impacts of varying perceptions of climate change and complex racial dynamics. Eschewing simple answers, the authors illuminate the points of friction that occur as competing visions of bioenergy development confront each other to variously support, reshape, contest, or reject bioenergy development. Building on recent conceptual advances in studies of sociotechnical imaginaries, environmental history, and energy justice, the authors present a careful and nuanced analysis that can provide guidance for promoting meaningful participation of local community members in renewable energy policy and production while recognizing the complex interplay of factors affecting its implementation in local places.
Sarah Hitchner is assistant research scientist and adjunct professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia.
John Schelhas is research forester with the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service.
J. Peter Brosius is distinguished research professor of anthropology at the University of Georgia and founding director of the University of Georgia's Center for Integrative Conservation Research.
J. Marshall Shepherd
Introduction Bioenergy Stories at the Intersection of Energy, Landscape, Race, and Climate in the U.S. South
Chapter 2 What People Hear and What People Say about Bioenergy: Translating Bioenergy Narratives, Imaginaries, and Metaphors
Chapter 3 Bioenergy Landscapes: Impacts of Bioenergy Developments on Forest-Dependent Communities in the U.S. South
Chapter 4 What’s Climate Change Got to Do with It?: The Relevance (Or Not) of Climate Change to Perceptions of Bioenergy
Chapter 5 “The South Be the South”: How Bioenergy Development Illustrates and Affects
Racial Dynamics in the U.S. South
Conclusion A New Bioenergy Imaginary in the U.S. South
When most people think of renewable energy innovation, they might envision California with its progressive environmental policies or Texas with its burgeoning wind industry. Less often do people or scholars locate the epicenter of renewable energy development in the forests of the Deep South. Forests as Fuel reveals a complicated and compelling story about what technological innovation looks like in rural areas in the South that are fraught with economic challenges and deep racial divides. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in wood-based energy development and environmental justice.
Hitchner, Schelhas, and Brosius offer a comprehensive ethno-graphic analysis of the challenges to sustainable forest-based bioenergy - as seen through the eyes of the people of the U.S. South. The authors carefully identify points of friction and opportunities in a sector that needs to be inclusive in its land-based energy quest to respond to a changing climate.