Cadiou, J., Aubert, P.-M., Meynard, J.-M. (2023). The importance of considering agricultural dynamics when discussing agro-environmental sustainability in futures studies of biogas, Futures, Volume 153, 103218, ISSN 0016-3287,



Biogas from anaerobic digestion is the most developed renewable alternative to fossil gas. Futures studies on the future of biogas discuss different promises on energy decarbonization, agricultural transition and territorial development, but its role in supporting the transition to a sustainable agriculture is debated in several European countries. In political arenas especially, futures studies are considered as strategic instruments that, by proposing possible scenarios, help shape visions of future related technologies. Although in France the debate on biogas includes the possibility of several future paths, we hypothesize here that futures studies do not sufficiently consider the dynamics of agricultural systems when discussing biogas future sustainability. By gathering a corpus of 16 recent futures studies, we show that the vision of biogas sustainability is developed mainly through normative rhetoric on agriculture evolution. Most studies indicate that biogas development can lead to a greening of agricultural systems. Yet, those assertions rest on a limited analysis of the co-evolution of technical and social dynamics in agriculture. Specifically, norms that describe the agency of farmers overlook or underestimate some sustainability risks and opportunities. New futures studies based on biogas’ role in agricultural sociotechnical systems will help policymakers determine what policies are needed for sustainability.