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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

The transition to a sustainable bio-economy: innovation and expectations

Grant reference: RES-180-25-0005

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Working paper details

The political shaping of transitions to biofuels in Europe, Brazil and the USA
The paper compares the innovation processes and pathways for biofuels in the USA, Brazil, and Europe. Capitalist political economies are facing historically unprecedented challenges. Previous major “long wave” transformations, the agricultural and first industrial revolutions, the development of electric power and chemical industries, nuclear energy, and ICT transformations – all shifts in techno-economic paradigms (Freeman and Perez, 1988) – have occurred through expanding and adding to previous resources and technologies. Restricting the focus to energy and materials, the socio-economic utilisation of carbon has undergone successive historical changes, by discovery and exploitation of new resources: from wood, charcoal and peat to coal1 as a source of energy and chemicals, and from coal to the petro-chemical technological platform that established itself after the Second World War. Now, capitalism for the first time faces a drive to technological change arising from resource depletion: the threat of ‘peak oil’, and the declining availability at economic and political costs of a major primary source of energy and materials (IEA, 2008; Aleklett et al. 2009; Hirsch et al. 2005).
Full text

Primary contributor

Author Mark Harvey

Additional contributors

Author Andrew McMeekin


biofuels; innovation; state policy; Brazil; USA; Europe

Additional details

University of Essex
01 January 2010