‘Sustainable’ biofuels in the global South

Special themed issue published in 'Geoforum' edited by Academic Co-Director, Stefano Ponte, and Carol Hunsberger, University of Western Ontario


(Picture: treehugger.com)

The past decade has witnessed a rapid rise in the number of policies that encourage the production and use of liquid biofuels, and a consequent rapid expansion of biofuel markets worldwide. However research has increasingly challenged claims about the ‘green’ credentials of biofuels and called attention to adverse environmental and social impacts associated with their production. Because of new knowledge and public pressure, the governance of biofuels has evolved to place greater emphasis on ‘sustainability’. New actors and arrangements have also emerged in the biofuel governance arena, such as multi-stakeholder ‘roundtables’ as well as public policy measures that are implemented through private certification schemes.

The articles in this special issue of Geoforum, originally presented at a conference partly funded by the CBS Sustainability Platform in late 2012, examine the features of ‘sustainable’ biofuels in the global South. They demonstrate that a substantial gap remains between the ideal of sustainable biofuels and current practices of biofuel production and processing in the global South. Traditional and experimentalist forms of governance both show considerable shortcomings – in their inclusiveness, scope, enforcement or all three – that have limited their ability to consistently improve social and environmental outcomes to date. While biofuel policies have increasingly taken up the language of social inclusion, livelihood benefits and environmental protection, the studies in this collection suggest that, based on current experience, fostering more sustainable practices in the biofuel industry remains a substantial challenge.  

THEMED ISSUE: SUSTAINABLE BIOFUELS AND THE GLOBAL SOUTH, Geoforum, Vol. 54 (2014), edited by Carol Hunsberger and Stefano Ponte


Carol Hunsberger, Stefano Ponte, ‘Sustainable’ biofuels in the global South, pp: 243-247
Carol Hunsberger, Simon Bolwig, Esteve Corbera, Felix Creutzig, Livelihood impacts of biofuel crop production: Implications for governance, pp. 248-260
Stefano Ponte, ‘Roundtabling’ sustainability: Lessons from the biofuel industry, pp. 261-271
Nicole Labruto, Experimental biofuel governance: Historicizing social certification in Brazilian ethanol production, pp. 272-281
Festus Boamah, Imageries of the contested concepts ‘land grabbing’ and ‘land transactions’: Implications for biofuels investments in Ghana, pp. 324-334
Jennifer Baka, What wastelands? A critique of biofuel policy discourse in South India, pp. 315-323
Derek Newberry, Why are there cattle in the conservation area? Social barriers to biofuel governance in Brazil, pp. 306-314
Rasmus Kløcker Larsen, Norman Jiwan, Arie Rompas, Johanes Jenito, Maria Osbeck, Abetnego Tarigan, Towards ‘hybrid accountability’ in EU biofuels policy? Community grievances and competing water claims in the Central Kalimantan oil palm sector, pp. 295-305
Sarah L. Stattman and Arthur P.J. Mol, Social sustainability of Brazilian biodiesel: The role of agricultural cooperatives, pp. 282-294


The page was last edited by: Sustainability Platform // 02/12/2019