Stopping the unstoppable? A discursive-institutionalist analysis of renewable transport fuel policy

James Palmer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


From a discursive-institutionalist perspective I seek to establish the influence exerted over environmental agenda setting and policy change by ideas and discourse, through an examination of recent developments in the UK's flagship biofuels policy, the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO). Discursive institutionalism's central contention is that the intricate interactions between ideas and institutions should be at the centre of studies of the policy-making process. By elucidating the mutually reinforcing character of cognitive processes (including 'framing' and 'boundary work') and institutional factors (such as 'standard operating procedures' and path dependency), I show how, despite a raft of countervailing evidence, significant changes in both the form and objectives of the RTFO were precluded. Longer-term research is required to establish the precise precipitating circumstances enabling such stability to result from these feedbacks, however, as it iso-theoretically at least-equally likely that far shorter periods of dramatic policy change, or 'paradigm shifts', will emerge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)992-1010
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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