Are Biofuels Pro-Poor? Assessing the Evidence

Biofuels are back in vogue. They are an attractive substitute for petroleum fuels, representing a relatively low cost alternative. In response to the 1970s oil crises a small number of countries began biofuel programmes, Brazil having the most extensive and well known programme resulting in ethanol being produced commercially as a fuel. Since the turn of the millennium, a number of forces have combined together to promote biofuel production once more: fuel security, high oil prices; environmental concerns linked to the enhancement of the greenhouse effect; rural development and poverty reduction. This paper reviews the evidence as to whether or not biofuels are pro-poor by assessing the impacts on land use (including food security), the local environment, jobs and gender equality. The paper concludes that biofuels are a technical system and it is the institutional structure rather than the technology which determines whether or not biofuels are pro-poor.

Are Biofuels Pro-Poor? Assessing the Evidence’, JS.ClancyThe European Journal of Development Research, 20(3) (2008): 416–431. © 2008 European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes. Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd via Copyright Clearance Center's Rightslink service.
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