The Changing Constellation of Power and Resistance in the Global Debate over Agrofuels

Aaron Leopold
January 2011

This paper critically investigates the lack of meaningful policy change towards agrofuels (or biofuels) in the wake of the food vs. fuel and environmental sustainability debates of 2007-08. The paper sketches the political economy of agrofuels Brazil, the EU and US before analyzing the effects of the food vs. fuel crisis on European agrofuels governance formation from a neo- Gramscian perspective. It is illustrated that before the food vs. fuel crisis provided critics a global audience, agrofuels programmes had been entrenched in agricultural policies by highly organized, well-funded capital interests. By offering a domestic, rural, agricultural alternative to fossil fuels, agrofuel proponents offered to make a business opportunity out of the fundamental problems of currently hegemonic, mobility, production and consumption systems. It was only with dramatic rise in food commodity prices over the course of 2007 and 2008 and subsequent space it discursively afforded a counter-hegemonic movement, that a truly global critical discussion of agrofuels came to fruition. The author concludes that despite rhetorical discursive shifts in understandings of the social and ecological sustainability of agrofuels, agrofuel production continues to be supported today as before because the agrofuels project was and remains a predominantly economically motivated endeavour.

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