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Biofuels: Promises and Constraints

December 2006

Read "Biofuels: Promises and Constraints" [PDF]

In seeking to address concerns about energy supply, national security, climate change, and economic development, numerous policymakers--and those who seek to influence them--are turning to biofuels as a solution to these cross-cutting issues. However, while biofuels do have the potential to provide an alternative to fossil energy, their beneficial aspects are countered by their own issues related to food security and economic and environmental sustainability. Therefore, the promises of biofuels must be weighed against their costs. This IPC Discussion Paper, by IPC Policy Associate Kara Laney, puts forth the potential benefits of biofuels, as well as their plausible drawbacks, to present a thorough overview of the policy issues. It explores the deeper issues related to such questions as:

  • Will biofuels generate rural economic development?
  • What are the possible effects of government support to biofuels production?
  • What impacts will biofuels have on the food and animal feed markets?

The purpose of this Discussion Paper is not to provide solutions, but to raise questions in order to illustrate the complexity of the biofuels issue for policymakers.

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