Logo 'Fair Fuels?'

Between dead end and energy transition:
A social-ecological multilevel analysis of transnational biofuel policy

Welcome to "Fair Fuels?"

What are the socioeconomic impacts of biofuel production? To what extent can these fuels be produced and used in a socially and environmentally compatible way? Do they make an indispensable contribution to the energy transition or do they instead lead to a dead end? These questions are to be solved by Fair Fuels?, a junior research group funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). read on...


Fair Fuels? Agrofuels in Latin America between Crisis Regulation, Socio-ecological Inequalities and Energy Transition

January 20, 2014

Over the last decade agrofuels have experienced a boom in Latin America in multiple ways: with regard to number of producing countries, output of produced feedstock convertible into fuel, trade volume, as well as concerning the area used for monoculture cultivation of "agrofuels" crops, e.g. sugarcane, oil palm and soy. While at first glance this boom seems to be a win-win situation with positive social, economic and ecological effects, a more nuanced analysis reveals diverse negative impacts, amongst them the (re-) production of socio-ecological inequalities.

In their lecture, Maria Backhouse (Freie Universität Berlin) and Dr. Kristina Dietz (desiguALdades.net) present main outcomes of their BMBF-funded research project focusing on developments in Brazil and Colombia as well as on transnational interdependencies.

Further Information

Workshop Regarding the Social and Ecological Impacts of Investments in Palm Oil Production in Pará/Brazil

October 21st 2013, Belém
A workshop regarding the social and ecological impacts of investments in palm oil production in Pará/Brazil was facilitated by Maria Backhouse and Prof Rosa Acevedo Marin at the university of Pará. 86 workshop participants including social movements representatives, politicians, civil servants, researchers, university students and entrepreneurs joined in controversial discussion of the social and ecological impact of oil palm plantations in general and the contract agriculture inclusion of small scale farmers into the sector. A further focus was directed to the problematic situation regarding land rights in Pará.
Programme and Workshop Presentations

Guest Researcher Matthieu Mondou Welcomed in “Fair Fuels?” Project
From September 16 to December 31 2012, guest researcher Matthieu Mondou will contribute to the “Fair Fuels?“ project of the Institute for Ecological Economy Research.
Matthieu completed at the Université de Montréal a Baccalaureat degree in Political Science and Philosophy in 2006 and a Masters degree in Political Science in 2009. Since then, he is Ph.D. Candidate at the Department of Political Science of the University of Toronto, where he works under the supervision of Prof. Grace Skogstad. For his dissertation thesis, Matthieu will compare the German, EU and US biofuel policies, with a special interest in the role that scientific expertise and public opinion played in development of these policies.
During his research stay at the Institute, Matthieu will benefit from on-site access to German parliamentary archives, and European and German biofuel policy actors, as well as from complementary expertise from the “Fair Fuels?” project. The project will in return be enriched from an additional transatlantic perspective on the conflict-ridden field of biofuels. Notably, Matthieu will contribute to the project by collaborating on a publication comparing the sustainability regulations of the US and the EU.

Invitation to the workshop on "The Political Ecology of Agrofuels", FU Berlin, October 11-12, 2012
In recent years the rapid growing of the agrofuel sector has given rise to intense international debate. At issue are conflicts over land and agricultural practices but also more fundamental issues surrounding underlying political-economic and socio-ecological dynamics and impacts. The objective of the workshop is twofold: first we would like to discuss the conceptual and theoretical contribution of the Political Ecology approach to analyzing multiples dynamics related to agrofuels expansion. Second, the workshop aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences and empirical insights related to the agrofuels dynamics in and across different countries and regions. The Participation in the workshop is free of charge and limited to 50 persons. Please submit your registration only via e-mail (fair-fuels(at)lai.fu-berlin.de) until the 15th of September at the latest. The workshop is organised by "Fair-Fuels?"-team members Kristina Dietz and Maria Backhouse.
Download Workshop-Leaflet

Presentation "Transnational contradictions and effects of Europe’s bioenergy policy" at OECD annual meeting

On 9 February 2012, Aaron Leopold presented the forthcoming "Fair Fuels?" Discussion Paper "Transnational contradictions and effects of Europe’s bioenergy policy: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa" at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) annual meeting of member state representatives working on Policy Coherence for Development (PCD). At the meeting, Leopold presented biofuels as a "Pandora's Box of PCD" whose complexity and ever-changing science create complex and dynamic policymaking challenges for governments interested in meaningfully addressing their economic, ecological and social implications. He concluded that the EU should seriously consider revising its biofuels policy if it is found to be a driver of land acquisitions currently associated with serious human rights questions related to treatment of vulnerable & marginalized groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Download Presentation (PDF)

Call for Abstracts: "Africa's land as a contested arena for international and national biofuel policies and actors" at the conference "Embattled Spaces – Contested Orders" (30 May - 2 June 2012, Cologne)

The Fair-Fuels?-Team organises the panel "Africa's land as a contested arena for international and national biofuel policies and actors" at the conference Embattled Spaces – Contested Orders of the African Studies Association in Germany (VAD). The Call for Abstracts is open until 30 November 2011. The panel is organised by Fair-Fuels?-scientists Michael Brüntrup, Kristina Dietz, Raoul Herrmann and Aaron Leopold: Land in Africa is an increasingly contested resource, with manifold consequences for economic development, poverty, social differentiation, political stability and conflicts. One of the reasons for this trend is increasing global demand for biofuels, spurred largely by biofuels promotion policies in developed and developing countries. As a consequence, new types of political coalitions and economic investments have begun to emerge... read on

“Sugarcane-Ethanol-Production in Malawi” FairFuels?-Study presented at IEA-Bioenergy Workshop

Organized by the International Energy Agency the workshop on “Quantifying and managing land use effects of bioenergy“ was held in Campinas, Brazil, from 19- 21 September 2011. Elisa Dunkelberg (IÖW), researcher of the “Fair-Fuels?“ project presented the results of a case study on sugarcane ethanol production in Malawi. Under the title “Sugarcane Ethanol Production in Malawi – A ‘Real World‘ Case Study on Greenhouse Gas Emissions due to Direct and Indirect Effects“ she showed that the greenhouse gas balance of sugarcane ethanol produced in Malawi could be considerably improved by substituting coal used in the ethanol plant by biomass. Furthermore, indirect land use change (ILUC) can be avoided, at least in part, if expansions in crop production are linked to compensatory measures.

Workshop  |  Presentation Elisa Dunkelberg (pdf)

Participation in the World Renewable Energy Congress 2011 in Linköping, Sweden

9th – 13th May 2011
The World Renewable Energy Congress 2011 was held in Linköping, Sweden, from 9th Mai to 13th May 2011.  In this event, Elisa Dunkelberg of the “Fair Fuels?” team (IÖW) presented results of a literature review on the influence of indirect land use change on the greenhouse gas balance of biofuels. The review intends to provide the strengths and weaknesses of different methods and to identify further research questions.

Research trip to Malawi to analyse the sugar/biofuels sector

27th April 2011
„Fair Fuels?“-researcher Raoul Herrmann returned in March from a five-months research stay in Malawi. Malawi produces on large-scale sugarcane since the 1960s for processing it into sugar. Ethanol is produced out of molasses since the 1980s. An important objective of the research trip was to collect data for analyzing socio-economic impacts of large-scale sugarcane production in producing rural regions. Extensive quantitative household-surveys were conducted, which included interviews with sugarcane farmers, plantation workers and other local populations. Village-level surveys complemented the household component. Elisa Dunkelberg and Anna Neumann from the “Fair Fuels?” team joined the research trip in February. Their main focus of work was to collect input data from respective actors to analyze the ecological impact of ethanol production. Expert interviews on social, economic and ecological impacts of all value chain steps were also conducted. Another important component of the research trip was to analyze the biofuels policy processes, for which the team was joined by Michael Brüntrup.

Participation in the 2010 Berlin Conference "Social dimensions of environmental change and governance"

8th - 9th October 2010
The 2010 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change was held at the Environmental Policy Research Centre at the FU Berlin from 8th - 9th October 2010. In this event, Thomas Vogelpohl and Bernd Hirschl of the "Fair Fuels?" team (IÖW) presented current results from the project module 6 (Potentials and Limitations of Policy Instruments for the Reduction of Social-ecological Problems). In accordance with the topic of this year's event - "Social dimensions of environmental change and governance" -  the focus  of the presentation was on the analysis of the social aspects of voluntary bioenergy certification initiatives and the legitimacy facets arising out of this way of governing sustainability.
Conference Paper 


Participation in the Ökobilanz-Werkstatt in Darmstadt

September 28 to october 1 2010
The LCA workshop „Ökobilanz-Werkstatt”, which addresses Ph.D. students in the subject area of  life cycle assessment, was held from september 28 to october 1, 2010 at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany.   Elisa Dunkelberg (IÖW), member of the "Fair Fuels?" team  presented the state of the art of the integration of indirect land use changes in the green house gas balance of biofuels. The focus was on strengths and weaknesses of various methodological approaches.
Presentation (only in German)


"Fair Fuels?" at a glance

Download the project leaflet (pdf, 2 MB)