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The Biofuel Delusion: The Fallacy of Large Scale Agro-Biofuels Production

By: Mario Giampietro and Kozo Mayumi

256 pages, index, references, illustrations


Hardback | Aug 2009 | #179673 | ISBN-13: 9781844076819
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £49.95 $65/€56 approx

About this book

Faced with the twin threats of peak oil and climate change, many governments have turned for an answer to the apparent panacea of biofuels. Yet, increasingly, the progressive implementation of this solution demonstrates that the promise of biofuels as a replacement to fossil fuels is in fact a mirage that, if followed, risks leaving us short of power, short of food, destroying biodiversity and doing as much damage to the climate as ever. Worse still, these risks are being ignored.

In this definitive expose, Mario Giampietro and Kozo Mayumi present exhaustive evidence for the case against large scale biofuel production from agricultural crops. The book begins by showing that the characteristics of agro-biofuels make them neither a viable nor a desirable alternative to fossil fuels. It then moves on to discuss a possibly more worrying issue. Even though agro-biofuels are well known, in the field of energy analysis, to be very low quality 'energy sources', the biofuel bandwagon rolls on relentlessly in Western governments. This apparent mystery can be explained by a lack of sound scientific analysis going beyond a simplistic economic reading, a (fatal) political attraction to the idea of biofuels as a 'silver bullet', and the continuing allure of a buoyed agricultural industry. In sum, this book will be vital, sobering reading for anyone concerned with energy or agricultural policy, or bioenergy as a complex system.

'In our rush to "do something" about energy and climate, we are tinkering with complex systems that we do not fully understand. This leads to consequences that are unintended and undesirable. Giampietro and Mayumi show that using biofuels effectively requires calculating how that usage integrates into a society's overall metabolism. Beyond biofuels, the book has a broad and enduring lesson: We will achieve better results if knowledge precedes policy.' Joseph A. Tainter, author of The Collapse of Complex Societies 'Thanks to Mario Giampietro and Kozo Mayumi for a cogent analysis of why large scale biofuels are one more false panacea put forward by the growth addicts.' Herman E. Daly, University of Maryland, USA 'Giampietro and Mayumi are world authorities on the use of energy in the economy. This book is the product of many years of scholarly work. It gives well-argued reasons against the misguided agrofuel policies of the European Union and the United States. Agrofuels have a low EROI, increase the HANPP (human appropriation of biomass) to the detriment of other species, and increase the water footprint of our economies.' Joan Martinez-Alier, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Past-President, International Society for Ecological Economics 'A powerful critique' Renew Magazine 'Timely for professionals working in a variety of fields...foresters should also find the book insightful.' The Forestry Chronicle 'They (the authors)...provide a global perspective...Recommended.' CHOICE Magazine 'This book will be vital, sobering reading for anyone concerned with energy or agricultural policy, or bioenergy as a complex system.' Management of Environmental Quality Journal.


Part I - Exploring the Nature of the Fallacy; The Quest for Energy: Lessons from the Past; For a Given Society, not Everything that Burns Represents a Fuel; Clarifying Basic Concepts of Energy Analysis; A Reality Check Based on the Metaphor of the Heart Transplant; The Blunder About Technical Progress in Agriculture and the Sustainable Development of Rural Areas;
Part II - Where did we go wrong?; Ideological Lock-in; Academic Lock-in; Institutional Lock-in;
Part III - Where do we go from here?; The Future of Bioenergy and Biofuels; Science for Sustainability: The Challenge;

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Mario Giampietro is an ICREA Research Professor at ICTA - Institute of Science and Technology for the Environment - Universitat Autonoma Barcelona, Spain. Kozo Mayumi is a professor at the University of Tokushima and works in the fields of energy analysis and ecological economics.

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