Biofuel development in Latin American and the Caribbean: Risks and Opportunities

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GRIN Verlag, May 29, 2009 - Nature - 117 pages
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Master's Thesis from the year 2008 in the subject Environmental Sciences, grade: 100%, Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus, course: Environmental and Resource Management, language: English, abstract: In the light of availability concerns and environmental implications of fossil fuels, attached with the remarkable rise in the price of oil during the past several years; biofuels are getting a significant increase in interest worldwide from governments, private investors, farmers and the public in general. Nevertheless, the use of cropland for biofuels had become a very controversial topic. On one hand, promoters state that biofuels represent opportunities to increase the energy security and to generate environmental and social benefits (through greenhouse gases emissions reductions and poverty alleviation through rural development respectively). On the other hand, topics such as the effects on food prices and availability, soil fertility and erosion, competition for scarce land and water resources and biodiversity loss are also widely discussed as important concerns related to further development of bioenergy. Notwithstanding this, several developing countries around the world are turning into the biofuels direction to satisfy the demand of developed countries while contributing to their economical growth and/or diversifying their current options of energetic arrangements. For Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), a geographical area with privileged natural resources; home-grown energy crops emerge as an appealing possibility, especially given the example of Brazil, a historical leader in ethanol production. After assessing some core elements of the biofuel’s debate, the evidence seems to suggest that biofuels may represent a valuable source of renewable energy. Nonetheless, in order to represent a promise to the LAC region, local governments will be required to firmly normalize land use and agricultural activities, while cautiously shaping public policies. Whether the biofuels’ boom will represent an opportunity or a risk for the LAC region would depend on how each country regulate agricultural and manufacturing practices, including how many small farmers and workers from rural areas would benefit from the industry. Keywords: Renewable resources, Biofuels risks and opportunities, Latin America and the Caribbean, Ethanol, Biodiesel, Food vs. Fuel debate, GHG reduction, Holistic approach to biofuels.

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