Thesis subject

Biofuels: a continually contested transition

Plant-based biofuels have been hailed as carbon-neutral sources of energy that can lead to rural development, and can green the aviation sector. However, at the same time they have continually been under fire for threatening food security, increasing rather than decreasing emissions, and being responsible for many cases of land grabbing. Technological fixes have been proposed for these social problems, such as biofuels from ‘waste’ material or from algae, but can these really address these social and ethical concerns.

Building on work done in the NWO project ‘Biofuels: sustainable innovation or gold rush?’ (2011-2015) students can do a literature review on recent social and ethical developments in the biofuels sector, including but not limited to the following questions:

  • How has EU policy incorporated the demand for and concerns about biofuels since the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive? Are biofuels likely to play a role in the upcoming Green Deal?
  • Have the framings of biofuels changed with the advent of new types of biofuels?
  • WUR is developing algae-based biofuels at the AlgaePARC. Can this be characterised as a ‘responsible innovation’? Are social and ethical concerns about biofuels taken into account in the research, and if so, how?
  • About a decade ago, many developing countries have experimented with Jatropha biofuels, only to be disappointed when Jatropha turned out to be massively overhyped. What lessons have been learned for agricultural and energy governance? Country to be decided upon in consult with supervisor.