Communication for Sustainable Development

Biofuels: A Market of Political Opportunities

Sugar cane residue can be used as a biofuelImage via Wikipedia
In Europe, much more than in the United States, green (but not just) non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are engaged loudly and aggressively in the biofuel debate. For several years now, a number of NGOs have repeatedly called for stopping governmental support of biofuels. Very vocal during the food versus fuel debate two years ago, they picked up the indirect land use change (ILUC) topic immediately as their new banner to wave.

A high degree of professionalism characterizes the way NGOs operate in the public domain: glossy anti-biofuel publications, many public events and scientific studies. The kind and frequency of actions also reveal that a lot of funding is behind today’s NGOs. The innocent spectator seeing how committed these groups appear to be in fighting biofuel policies could come to the conclusion that they are sincere in their beliefs and goals. Recent academic work provides some interesting insight into what actually motivates NGOs in the biofuel debate.

Recently two researchers of the UK University of Essex published the results of their research titled “Battles over Biofuels in Europe: NGOs and the Politics of Markets” by Sarah Pilgrim and Mark Harvey. Their most significant conclusion is that the development of NGO policy on biofuels has been driven more by narrow political opportunities for influence than by broader and more coherent policy responses to global climate change or economic development, or indeed rigorous assessment of the scientific evidence.
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