Fueling the Failure: Biofuels, Forests, and the Environmental State


The acceleration of the global climate emergency is pressuring states to mitigate or resolve the crisis. In 2007, the United States introduced a piece of legislation called the Renewable Fuel Standard 2 (RFS2) seeking to incentivize the commercialization of cellulosic biofuels technologies, or what are often called second generation biofuels (2GB). 2GB promise to significantly mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from transportation because they are produced from fibrous, inedible crops and crop wastes, as compared to first generation biofuels that are produced from food crops like corn and sugarcane. Fifteen plants were built between then and 2015; all but one failed or appear to be failing. Of these failed projects, six used wood from forests in the Southern United States. This paper examines how, why, and to what ends the RFS2 failed. I focus on understanding the afterlives of these failed plants and the consequences for the state and forests. The paper speaks to emerging academic debates around market (non-)performativity and the “green” expert knowledge used to justify the potential of 2GB.


Creative Commons Licence



Contributed date

July 19, 2020 - 6:41am

Critical Commentary

Abstract by Andrew Schuldt, submitted to the EASST/4S 2020 PANEL: SUSTAINABLE BIOFUELS?

Cite as

Andrew Schuldt, "Fueling the Failure: Biofuels, Forests, and the Environmental State", contributed by Duygu Kasdogan, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 19 July 2020, accessed 2 December 2021.