Pietro Berti

Project Summary

Fuelling Expectations: UK Biofuel Policy

My research investigates UK stakeholders’ opinions in biofuel policy, with the UK government as focal point. It aims to uncover how the peculiar responsibilities toward the legislative process of the UK government have affected the way this latter has constructed and supported its official visions on technologies and policies. It also aims to unveil how public authorities in general, as well as private industry associations, consultancies and non-governmental organisations mediate visions on technologies and policies among their sources and audiences.

My research consists of a historical analysis and a cross-sectional analysis. Both analyses deploy the framework of the sociology of expectations integrated with insights and terminology borrowed from the multilevel perspective on sociotechnical transitions. This integrated framework has proved to be an efficient and reliable tool for these kinds of investigations.

The historical analysis investigates how the UK government’s vision on biofuel policy has evolved within the UK biofuel debate since its origin in the sustainable road transport debate. Suitable time-series samples for this investigation are the official correspondences that the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP), the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRAC) and the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) entertained with the UK government between the mid-1990s and the end of 2000s. Within that historical period, the sustainable road transport debate emerged and evolved, opening a space for the related biofuel debate. To track the evolution of the UK government’s vision on biofuel policy, the historical analysis compares the official reports of the UK government and of the other public authorities over time.

The cross-sectional analysis investigates which voices the UK government has selected and/or marginalised to construct its official vision on biofuel policy. A purposive and convenient cross-sectional sample for an analysis of stakeholders’ opinions in UK biofuel policy is the public consultation on biofuel policy that the UK government – via its Department for Transport – launched on the 15th October 2008. This consultation sought views on specific proposals to amend UK biofuel policy in reaction to the controversy over the sustainability of biofuels that sparkled at the end of 2000s. This consultation collected 89 responses, among which many from industry actors, but also from several other typologies of actors, such as industry associations, non-governmental organisations, consultancies and public authorities among others. Treating this consultation as an opinion survey, the cross-sectional analysis reconstructs the visions on biofuel policy dominant within the consultation, and compares them with that of the UK government.

Supervisory Team

Associate Professor Sabina Leonelli (Egenis – University of Exeter)

Professor Brian Rappert (University of Exeter)

Funding: 3-year full-scholarship – College of Social Sciences and International Studies – University of Exeter