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Challenge of biofuel: filling the tank without emptying the stomach?
Environmental Research Letters (2007)
  • Deepak Rajagopal
  • Steven E Sexton, University of California - Berkeley
  • David Zilberman
Abstract

Biofuels have become a leading alternative to fossil fuel because they can be produced domestically by many countries, require only minimal changes to retail distribution and end-use technologies, are a partial response to global climate change, and because they have the potential to spur rural development. Production of biofuel has increased most rapidly for corn ethanol, in part because of government subsidies; yet, corn ethanol offers at most a modest contribution to society's climate change goals and only a marginally positive net energy balance. Current biofuels pose long-run consequences for the provision of food and environmental amenities. In the short run, however, when gasoline supply and demand are inelastic, they serve as a buffer supply of energy, helping to reduce prices. Employing a conceptual model and with back-of-the-envelope estimates of wealth transfers resulting from biofuel production, we find that ethanol subsidies pay for themselves. Adoption of second-generation technologies may make biofuels more beneficial to society. The large-scale production of new types of crops dedicated to energy is likely to induce structural change in agriculture and change the sources, levels, and variability of farm incomes. The socio-economic impact of biofuel production will largely depend on how well the process of technology adoption by farmers and processors is understood and managed. The confluence of agricultural policy with environmental and energy policies is expected.

Publication Date
2007
Citation Information
Deepak Rajagopal, Steven E Sexton and David Zilberman. "Challenge of biofuel: filling the tank without emptying the stomach?" Environmental Research Letters Vol. 2 Iss. 4 (2007)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/sexton/23/