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Biofuels, bioenergy and the bioeconomy in North and South

The benefits from doing biofuels well outweigh the risks of doing it badly. Those benefits are greatly enhanced and the risks reduced by connecting best practices and sustainable solutions for biofuels and bioenergy to those of the broader bioeconomy in both North and South.

Francis X. Johnson / Published on 1 December 2017

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Johnson, Francis X. "Biofuels, Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy in North and South" Industrial Biotechnology. December 2017, 13(6): 289-291.

ethanol manufacturing plant nighttime brazil

Ethanol Manufacturing Plant at night in Brazil. Photo credit: alffoto via iStock / Getty Images Plus

A thriving bioeconomy that includes increasing reliance on biological processes and biobased products is a key element of the overall global sustainability transition. Energy can be seen as the ‘‘glue’’ in the bioeconomy due to the high energy requirements of modern economies and the physical interrelationships between energy and non-energy products and processes. The bioeconomy will ultimately replace the fossil economy that is characterized by high reliance on non-renewable resources.

At the same time, the bioeconomy will also replace the ‘natural economy’ that is common in the developing world, where heavy reliance on subsistence farming and traditional biomass degrade the resource base with low economic returns. A sustainable bioeconomy is also fully compatible with a circular economy in that it aims for minimal waste and the optimal valorization of biomass across all its different uses.

Consequently, the vision for the bioeconomy and its underlying principles should be applied in the global North and South just as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were designed to be universal in nature. The approaches, applications and implementation will nevertheless need to be adapted widely across varying levels of economic development and sociocultural conditions.

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SEI author

Francis X. Johnson
Francis X. Johnson

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

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