Envisioning and implementing wood-based bioenergy systems in the southern United States: Imaginaries in everyday talk
Bioenergy development in the Southern United States was said to promise a future with renewable energy, energy independence, expanded wood markets, and rural development. We view this vision of wood-based bioenergy as a sociotechnical imaginary involving a future where energy and rural development needs are met using sustainably-harvested local resources. While this vision has led to bioenergy development, it has not been universally shared and counter-narratives have circulated. Local people receive multiple messages and have diverse experiences with bioenergy, which affect how they interpret the imaginary. We use cultural models to examine the extent and ways that elements of the national bioenergy imaginary occurred in everyday talk in three communities where bioenergy plants had recently been developed. We show how local people articulated, responded to, and altered the national bioenergy imaginary while simultaneously drawing on diverse experiences, values, and other important social discourses. While local people had limited opportunities to alter the national imaginary, they contested and diluted it in ways that indicated that they were not fully in support of the imaginary and the development it spurred. Ultimately, this may hinder bioenergy development.