Logo 'Fair Fuels?'

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

Main goals and approach

In taking up biofuels, the project group has chosen to analyse an especially controversial element of the present and future energy supply system. Pursuing an interdisciplinary and interregional approach, the project group will investigate the conflicts, potentials, and risks of biofuels; their transnational complexity; and their social-ecological interdependencies. The results drawn from case studies carried out in three different regions of the world will be integrated into investigations of overlying concerns about environmental impacts, political manageability and control, and transnational conflicts.

Main goals of the project include:

  • Identification and analysis of the varying socio-ecological conflict dimensions of biofuel production at and between different political levels (from local to global) and of affected economic sectors
  • Formulation of context-specific assertions on how such conflicts could be dealt with politically
  • Methodological as well as theoretical-conceptual contributions to the analysis of social-ecological areas of conflict from a multi-level perspective

The project is divided into both context-specific regional case studies and comprehensive cross-regional contributions. In a concluding section all significant results will be integrated.

      Country case studies:

  1. Germany: Analysis of the controversial development of German biofuels policy and its interaction with European climate, energy, agricultural, and environmental policy.
  2. Brazil: Investigation of the impacts of the expansion of biofuels production on the current conflicts surrounding land use and distribution.
  3. Sub-Saharan Africa: Analysis of the potential impacts of various forms of agro-industrial biofuel production on rural poverty and food security.

    Comprehensive cross-regional contributions:

  4. Environmental assessment: Comprehensive environmental assessment of selected biofuels in the case study countries with a particular focus on prevailing methodological weak points, for example, changes in land use and indirect effects.
  5. Transnational perspectives: Analysis of the impact of climate and trade policy decisions on local development, shifts in political power structures in the North-South context, and social-ecological consequences of these interrelationships.
  6. Approaches to policy regulation: Investigation of the social-ecological conflicts, as well as certifications and standards, code of conducts and agreements with respect to impacts, limitations, and potential for improvement.