Edited by: Dr. H.A. Romijn, Dr. A.J.K. Pols and E. de Hoop
For as long as biofuels have prominently appeared in EU policy, they have been a contested energy source. Crops such as jatropha have been hailed as ‘wonder crop’, only to experience an extraordinary collapse within a decade. From the food vs. fuel discussion to indirect land use change, wicked problems have plagued biofuel developments and continue to provoke disagreement between societal actors. The impacts of biofuels’ tumultuous history have been felt particularly in the Global South, where land grabbing and opportunistic behaviour of investors have caused great social and ecological problems. Proponents of biofuels claim that this is all the more reason to continue with investments and innovation: new sources of biofuels, such as plant residues and algae, will eventually solve all our problems. Given the great uncertainties and past harms, however, these claims cannot be accepted lightly, nor should we assume that all encountered problems are technology-specific. Rather, we should realise that biofuels as a case study raise fundamental questions with regard to policy and governance, responsible innovation and sustainable development.
This collection is devoted to addressing these fundamental questions from a multidisciplinary perspective. As such, it comprises articles that use perspectives from development studies; economics; environmental studies; ethics; policy studies; political ecology; science and technology studies and sociology. The collection is an outcome from the conference “Biofuels and (Ir)responsible Innovation” held on 13-14 April 2015 at Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. It was sponsored by the Responsible Innovation Programme of the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research (NWO).