Birch & Calvert: Rethinking ‘Drop-in’ Biofuels: On the Political Materialities of Bioenergy

  • Kean Birch
  • Kirby Calvert
Keywords: political materialities, drop-in biofuels, bioenergy, sustainable transitions, bio-economy

Abstract

A sustainable transition is premised upon moving from a carbon energy regime to a renewable energy regime; a highly contested political-economic transformation, to say the least. In places like the United States and European Union the main form of renewable energy is bioenergy, especially biofuels. Recent policy and industry efforts are focusing on the development and implementation of what are known as ‘drop-in’ biofuels, so named because they can be incorporated into existing distribution infrastructure (e.g. pipelines) and conversion devices with relatively few, if any, technical modifications. As with carbon energy, bioenergy has particular materialities that are implicated in the political-economic possibilities and constraints facing societies around the world. These political materialities of bioenergy shape and are shaped by new energy regimes and therefore problematize the notion of a drop-in biofuel. Thus further examination of the political materialities of bioenergy, and of renewable energy more generally, is of critical importance for successful sustainable transitions.