New Study on Biofuels in Brazil supported by the EBI -BP
Substantial increases in the production and use of bioenergy will be a part of the significant
transformations of the global energy system over the coming decades. Effective policies are
needed to govern emerging impacts to ecosystems, natural resources and socioeconomic
systems. Governments and other institutions worldwide are beginning to recognize this
challenge and are developing bioenergy sustainability standards. These are important
governance tools but on their own may be insufficient to stimulate appropriate development of
the sector. Effective policies need to be informed through research that identifies bioenergy
lifecycles in their full socio-ecological context. We need to understand the underlying factors
that shape and transform bioenergy production systems and in turn how these systems shape
and transform places, societies and economies. Our research addresses the cumulative, far-
reaching, and place-specific impacts that can be identified through bioenergy production
lifecycles. Identifying these impacts is particularly important for the developing world, where
bioenergy production is weakly governed yet is forecast to increase on a massive scale.
Our research examines historical and current bioenergy development in Brazil with a
comparative study of more recent bioenergy development patterns and their influences in India.
This two-year project comprises two interlinked parts. First, we thoroughly map and explain
influences of and effects on contemporary bioenergy lifecycles and production chains in Brazil.
We use commodity chain analysis in combination with historical methods to assemble the first
history of Brazilian biofuels program that links technological research and planning with
environmental outcomes. This history is of critical use to governments and other public interest
groups considering whether to pursue the so called “Brazilian model” of biofuels production.
We juxtapose our findings with commonly espoused narratives about the Brazilian ethanol
Second, we examine two important financial influences on bioenergy development in
Brazil and India – private investment and multilateral climate change mitigation funds. We
compare specific projects in Brazil and India, documenting the effects of these institutions on
the environmental and social outcomes of bioenergy development, and how social and
environmental factors are taken into account in project decision-making. This research is
designed to inform the activities of private sector actors investing in bioenergy production and
also decision makers hoping to harness and shape investment in the energy sector to achieve
Our study will build a knowledge base to inform policy for guiding future decision-
making towards sustainable bioenergy production. We will contribute a strong data set to
contribute to the various EBI socioeconomic issues laboratories established. Our team includes
researchers with a range of disciplinary and geographical backgrounds, including environmental
law/policy, climate policy, environmental history, science policy, and ecological economics.
Norgaard, University of California, Berkeley