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Accepted Paper:

Epistemic politics  


Abigail Martin (University of Sussex School of Business)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the epistemic and ontological politics of energy transitions drawing from two cases of climate policy driven energy transitions: community solar projects for environmental justice and biofuels as low-carbon transportation fuels.

Paper long abstract:

Knowledge production is a key issue in environmental governance and increasingly important to research on the governance of energy transitions. Drawing from the fields of Science and Technology Studies and environmental politics, this paper examines how energy transitions as climate mitigation strategies are constituted by the co-production of knowledge, values, and social order. The first case explores the co-production of environmental justice screening and mapping technologies with particular notions of justice and equity that have given way to community-based solar initiatives tied to environmental justice movements in the US. The second case looks at the co-production of lifecycle assessments for carbon intensity metrics and low-carbon biofuel developments in the US. Each case highlights the epistemic politics of energy transitions that are mobilized by specific claims of advancing justice and of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. In both cases, the lines between science and politics blur and are arguably embraced in the policymaking arena, suggesting new norms for the boundary drawn between science and policy. In addition, the cases highlight key differences in the participation of affected publics in the creation of new research methods. Such methods generate representations of realities to be pursued through policymaking. This brings ontological politics to the fore, raising questions about what realities are enacted by research methods, as well as how those realities reinforce or link up with other energy transition realities.

Panel C08
Epistemic politics in energy transitions research