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Abstract

Electric tractors (ETs) have the ability to become a major part of the American agricultural landscape in the near future. Currently available to consumers, ETs are beneficial in terms of environmental, personal, and public health. Despite this, policymakers have not yet paid attention to the benefits of ET production and adoption, failing to incorporate incentives for ET development in either U.S. or Illinois state energy and agricultural policy. Even in alternative fuels legislation, the category in which most electric vehicle policy is located, ETs are not yet acknowledged as an available or valuable alternative to traditional fuel vehicles. However, current alternative fuels policy frameworks act as a basis upon which changes to policymaking approaches can be made. This study explores cultural, technological and legislative barriers to ET production and adoption, highlighting the benefits of the technology as reasons for overcoming these barriers. A discursive and visual analysis focused on advertising, vehicular patents, manufacturer websites, and policy is employed in order to understand why ETs have not yet become a mainstay of rural life. The structure of this analysis provides the reader with an alternative way in which to discuss the electric vehicle, encouraging the development and adoption of these vehicular technologies as one way in which to acknowledge the full scope of electric possibilities in the vehicle industry. The result of this inquiry reveals a current, two-tiered framework in which electric vehicle policy is currently contained. Separating legislation into the categories of energy and agriculture, current methods of vehicular policy development are not conducive for the development of incentives for alternative fuel vehicles such as the ET. Because this framework is both continually creating and re-enforcing EV market conditions, a break from its structure is needed in order to facilitate rapid adoption of electric vehicles with a looming climate crisis in mind. This study makes some initial suggestions as to what a new framework might look like, focusing on alternative fuels policy as an area in which the electric tractor and other alternative fuels vehicles can be acknowledged alongside the electric car. However, in order for this framework to adapt over time, readers must continue to utilize the discursive framework provided here in order to encourage policy production, on a local scale, that best fits with the needs of the ET producer and consumer in each U.S. state.

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