This briefing from the Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research presents a summary of
research and policy reports on positive and negative aspects of liquid biofuels. It covers three areas: economic and energy security, rural development and agricultural production and environmental challenges. It will also shortly depict the cases of Brazilian ethanol as a model of processing agricultural crops to liquid fuels for transport, and finally cover the future bioenergy production potential in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The purpose of this briefing is to provide an overview of present discussions and to present arguments from a variety of organisations and scholars. As a service to a reader, the briefing contains an extensive reference list for further studies.
The reports and research covered in this briefing are quite disparate. Nevertheless, ten significant conclusions can be observed:
• Biofuels cannot solely substitute oil in meeting the expected future energy demand in transportation.
• Development of next-generation biofuels can ease the food vs. fuel competition since they can be processed from other sources of biomass than the major food crops.
• Countries in tropical regions are more suited for biomass production. However, we lack sufficient research on future stresses compounded due to climate change and economic globalisation.
• International trade rules, particularly governing agricultural commodities, as well as development of standards and certifications will play a significant role in shaping global, as well as local conditions of future biofuel production. Thus, the outcomes of trade agreement and policies will impinge on development goals and livelihood security in developing countries.
• An important factor for developing countries will be whether biofuels will be considered as an agricultural or non-agricultural good by WTO. If they are classified as agricultural commodities they can be eligible for special measures such as subsidies for environmental reasons. But this may also be used to uphold agricultural subsidies in industrialised countries.
• Liquid biofuel production can be beneficial for developing countries in tropical regions. Present research indicates that rural communities in SSA may benefit if they hold control over the local or regional production conditions.
• Taking into account present conditions, food security of several SSA countries could be under strain caused by increased biofuel production.
• Depending on production conditions, SSA countries can stand to gain in the future.
However, we lack comprehensive research on the conditions for a sustainable development of biofuel production which will benefit development aspirations.
• Although economies of scale is one factor to consider, sustainable development in SSA can benefit from small-scale production since this type of agriculture can put less stress on environment, in contrast to large-scale production projects.
• The production of liquid biofuels in SSA should be directed to meet other important needs in addition to transports (in contrast to the Brazilian example) like heating, cooking and electricity generation.
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2008. , 20 p.