Table of Contents

The Law and Policy of Biofuels

The Law and Policy of Biofuels

The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series

Edited by Yves Le Bouthillier, Annette Cowie, Paul Martin and Heather McLeod-Kilmurray

In the last twenty years the biofuels industry has developed rapidly in many regions of the world. This book provides an in-depth and critical study of the law and policies in many of the key biofuels producing countries, such as Brazil, China, the US, as well as the EU, and a number of other countries where this industry is quickly developing. The multidisciplinary contributors examine the roles of the public and private sectors in the governance of biofuels. They propose recommendations for more effective and efficient biofuel policies.

Chapter 13: Unpacking the complexities of biofuel policy

Paul Martin and Elodie Le Gal

Subjects: environment, energy policy and regulation, environmental law, law - academic, energy law, environmental law


“Path dependence” is an important concept to help to understand the ways in which societies respond to new challenges. It suggests that established practices or policy traditions will generally be the basis for deciding what to do when faced with new challenges and opportunities. It can therefore be expected that policy-makers and lawyers will approach the governance of biofuels on the basis of how previous challenges involving energy industries, natural-resource-based enterprises and sustainability have been addressed. We can expect that issues will be viewed through the lens of energy security and climate change, and that strategies will involve a mixture of the command-and-control and market-based approaches that have been generally used (with varying degrees of success). While biofuels governance shares many characteristics with other natural resource management (NRM) and energy issues, contemporary biofuels raise unique governance challenges that are likely to require innovative institutional arrangements. These challenges are the focus of this chapter. The special characteristics of biofuels as a governance problem include fundamental disagreements about how to manage the business, financial, social and environmental risks associated with biofuel production and use; the diversity of technologies and business models within the generic terms “biofuels” or “bioenergy” (or other similar terms); the magnitude and rate of development of the economic opportunity and the industry; and (as a result of these characteristics) the deficiencies in the capacity of government to deliver what would be required for effective biofuel governance models.

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