Bioenergy companies have proposed and constructed numerous industrial plants for wood-based bioenergy production; while they envision and plan these facilities in distant locales, they build the plants at a commercial scale in specific communities in the southeastern United States. Ethnographic research can improve understanding of how people in these communities, often rural, heavily forested, and economically impoverished Southern towns, view and experience bioenergy initiatives. It can also elucidate various, often competing, worldviews and ways of discussing an interconnected web of social issues related to bioenergy development. Further, ethnography in these local communities sheds light on ways that some actors strategically deploy certain narratives to promote their own objectives. Through multi-sited fieldwork in Georgia and Mississippi and event ethnography at regional conferences and national webinars, we have found that four main issues are intertwined on a local level in communities where bioenergy facilities are located: energy, landscape, climate, and race. These rural, forested communities grappling with deep racial divides, socioeconomic vulnerabilities, and skepticism about climate change will continue to be sought as sites for wood-based bioenergy, making understanding the cultural context a paramount concern.

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