Biofuels and Energy Justice

Summary

This interdisciplinary research explains the science of biofuels advancements through the lens of energy justice theory.

Researchers

Project Background and Aims

Investment is needed to promote the important role of biofuels in the transition of the Australian energy market towards a sustainable future. Appropriate policy, laws, and regulations are essential drivers of such investment and the ultimate success of the Australian biofuels sector.

To achieve this end, our aim is to contribute to the progression of Australia’s policies and laws on biofuels. Thus we will re-think the outcomes of major technical studies on biofuels published in Australia between 2007 and 2014 as well as the latest developments in first generation biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. We will also examine selected biofuel development in the EU. Given the outcomes of these types of studies have been generally evaluated on the basis of economic benefit, the purpose of our revisiting these publications is to widen the analysis to include environmental (climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection) and political (energy security) considerations.

This inter-disciplinary research will use empirical qualitative methods to address a number of questions. Are there further technology breakthroughs needed? What is still valuable in the previous biofuels studies? Can current developments on biofuels be transitioned to policy in Australia?

These questions have been developed by reference to the advanced state of biofuels, policies and law outside of Australia, and the contention that economic benefit is no longer considered the sole criteria for evaluating non-renewable and renewable energy projects.

This project is funded by the Monash Energy Materials and Systems Institute (MEMSI).

Methodology

The qualitative method of narrative is used to piece together the outcomes of major technical studies on biofuels published in Australia between 2007 and 2014 as well as the latest developments in first generation biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. We use the same method to describe the state of biofuel energy policy in Australia and make comparisons to the policies of a selected EU country.

Research and development of biofuels technology has continued strongly in the USA, Europe and Asia over the past decade, much of it aimed at increasing sustainability and lowering costs of fuel production. There will be a systematic review of this activity and conclusions drawn as to the technology readiness and greenhouse gas mitigation of the leading options in this field. This technical review of biofuels development will inform the policy and legal reviews undertaken as part of the project.

To discuss the research findings, the analytical framework is energy justice theory.

Output

Output 1

  • October 2018: Participation in MEMSI Research Showcase event.
  • April 2019: Network building and establishing our “credentials” with key government and industry stakeholders, with a view to identifying potential industry participants interested in future collaborations and funding.

Output 2

  • March 2019: Two seminars launching the research findings.
  • May 2019:  Final papers for submission to high quality journals.

Output 3

  • June 2019: The final project outcome will be the identification of industry partners to enter a joint grant application for additional comparative work on biofuel technological developments, together with policy and laws in international and national settings whose purpose is catalyse change in the biofuels policy and tax environment in Australia