Biofuels: Environmental benefits or trade-offs? The South-North perspective on biofuel business, trade and environment. A case study from Argentina on soy biodiesel

University essay from Lunds universitet/Internationella miljöinstitutet

Abstract: The thesis describes the global development of biofuel trade from a South-North perspective, with a particular focus on the view fom the global South on the case of soybean bio-diesel from Argentina. The overall question of the thesis focuses on the balance between benefits and trade-offs of biofuels from an environmental perspective, it also considers economic and social dimensions. One of the main reasons that biofuels are being promoted are environmental benefits as reduced carbon emissions in the transport sector and as such presents an alternative to mitigate global warming and climate change. Due to politically set biofuel targets and increasing oil prices, global biofuel production and trade is expected to increase rather significantly in the future. However, the carbon neutrality of biofuels can be questioned and the thesis illustrates several crucial issues concerning how ?green? the development of large scale biofuel production is. Main findings are that biofuels will probably further advance the agricultural frontier and increase the pressure on land in Argentina, a country with already high rates of deforestation. It is questionable whether soybean diesel could contribute to reduced greenhouse gases in Argentina. The lock-in effects of soybeans, the weak political-institutional culture impeding sustainability strategies, the strong external demand for soybean products, the biofuel tax incentive pushing investments in biofuels; are some of the push factors that are likely to further excaberate environmental trade-offs such as an advancement of the agricultural frontier, reduce carbon sinks and cause an increased loss of biodiversity.

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