Headline: “Unbundling” the biofuel promise: Querying the ability of liquid biofuels to deliver on socio-economic policy expectations

While excitement around biofuels initially focused on finding a clean and secure alternative to fossil fuels, many other expectations have subsequently been attached to the “biofuel boom.” Biofuels are not only expected to mitigate climate change or foster domestic energy security, but also to generate employment, provide opportunities to smallholders and support decentralized energy systems. This paper interrogates the expectations attached to biofuels. We begin by examining how policies in consumer and producer countries articulate a series of expectations for biofuels that are “bundled” with the promise of cleaner energy, using the rationales behind these expectations to derive criteria for success. We then review evidence from the published literature on biofuel outcomes against these criteria to assess whether the most prevalent assumptions have been met. We find that policy expectations for biofuels are often expressed in narrow terms, failing to capture important potential impacts – for example focusing on new jobs in the formal sector rather than job quality or whether employment offsets livelihood costs associated with biofuel investments. Some expectations have proven elusive irrespective of the metrics employed, for example using biofuels to improve energy access in remote rural areas. The paper concludes by discussing implications for policy and practice.

Publication Year
2017
Publication Type
Academic Articles
Citation

Hunsberger, C., German, L., Götz, A. (2017): “Unbundling” the biofuel promise: Querying the ability of liquid biofuels to deliver on socio-economic policy expectations. - Energy Policy, 108, p. 791-805.DOI: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2017.04.017

DOI
10.1016/j.enpol.2017.04.017
Projects involved
Governance and Participation