£65.00 | $95.00

11 November 2010
ISBN: 9781848135710
160 pages
216mm x 138mm

Africa, Agriculture, Development, Environment

Also available as Ebook

Biofuels and the Globalization of Risk

The Biggest Change in North-South Relationships Since Colonialism?

James Smith

Biofuels and the Globalization of Risk offers a fresh, compelling analysis of the politics and policies behind the biofuels story, with its technological optimism and often-idealized promises for the future. This essential new critique argues that investment in biofuels may reconfigure risk and responsibility, whereby the global South is encouraged to invest its future in growing biofuel crops, often at the expense of food, in order that the global North may continue its unsustainable energy consumption unabated and guilt-free. Thus, Smith argues, biofuels may constitute the biggest change in North-South relationships since colonialism.


'This is a revolutionary body of work that analyses the allure of biofuels from a global, historical and political perspective. Nuances of why the global debate on biofuels, climate change, and sustainable development have lost resonance with the livelihoods and local perspective are explored. The question of whether the biofuel system offers emerging economies, and local communities the opportunity of being exigent from the colonial paradigm is probed.' - Professor Judi Wakhungu, Director of the African Centre of Technology Studies

'James Smith has produced an incredibly important book for anyone interested in why global investment in biofuels continues to expand at breakneck speed despite the technology’s current inherent inability to make any significant impact on energy security or green house gas emissions.' - Simon Trace, CEO Practical Action

'Biofuels have received a huge amount of attention in the past few years and Smith has done an excellent job in bringing to our attention their potential and unforeseen consequences. By their nature, biofuels involve complex issues and I agree with him that we simple do not understand yet the gamut of interactions and implications; bioenergy is constantly evolving, interacting and shaping interlocking systems. Smith examines key uncertainties in science, knowledge and methodology that drive the uncertainty of potential impacts of biofuels, and the increasing control of multinationals of the biofuel industry ...Overall, I strongly recommend the reading of this book, for the expert and non-expert and politicians. If biofuels are to play an important role in our energy future, it is imperative we address all questions including uncomfortable ones, as Smith has done in this book.' Frank Rosillio-Calle, Imperial College

Table of Contents


1. Introduction: Perfect Storms
3. Systems
4. Synergies
5. Scale
6. Sustainability? Globalising Risk

About the Author:

James Smith is co-director of and a senior lecturer in the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He is also a director at the ESRC Innogen Research Centre at Edinburgh and a visiting fellow in development policy and practice at the Open University. His research explores the relationships between knowledge, science and development, particularly in relation to agricultural research and how it is practised. He has worked with many international organisations and research centres including Oxfam, DFID, IDRC and the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research.