Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (441.0 KB bytes)

Title: Snake oil, silver buckshot, and people who hate us: metaphors and conventional discourses of wood-based bioenergy in the rural southeastern United States

Author: Hitchner, Sarah; Schelhas, John;  Brosius, J. Peter;

Date: 2016

Source: Human Organization

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Multiple experiences and sources of information influence ideas about wood-based bioenergy, and people often use similar language to reference various discourses (e.g., energy independence, rural development, environmental sustainability). We
collected data during ethnographic research in three primary and three secondary field sites in the southeastern United States
in which wood-based bioenergy facilities are located and at regional bioenergy conferences, as well as from publications on
bioenergy from various sources. We use qualitative content analysis to show how various stakeholders in this region frame
issues related to bioenergy, which bioenergy narratives and metaphors they employ, and how recurring linguistic elements are
shared among bioenergy stakeholders. We focus on several key metaphors that people reference when they talk about bioenergy in different contexts, including public media, policy and management discussions, bioenergy conferences, outreach programs, and among landowners and within communities: “snake oil,” “silver buckshot,” and “people who hate us” (i.e., terrorists). We explain how these metaphors employ multiple, overlapping, and sometimes conflicting conventional discourses (Strauss 2012) in order to appeal to emotions and cultural value systems, and we argue that uses of these metaphors act as “moments of influence” (Witter et al. 2015) on perceptions of bioenergy. While it is impossible to know what truly motivates or influences people, by combining these two forms of analysis, we can show how language both reflects and creates shared cultural understanding of developing technologies and their effects on different stakeholders.

Keywords: bioenergy, narratives, discourses, southeastern United States, forests

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Hitchner, Sarah; Schelhas, John; Brosius, J. Peter 2016. Snake oil, silver buckshot, and people who hate us: metaphors and conventional discourses of wood-based bioenergy in the rural southeastern United States. Human Organization, Vol. 75, No. 3: 204-217. 14 p.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.