The state of the biofuels market: regulatory, trade and development perspectives

Nov 2014

As the UN system gears towards the definition of the Sustainable Development Goals for the international community in the period post-2015, the linkages between energy and development lie high in international agendas. Governments, intergovernmental organizations, corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and even individuals are asking themselves a number of questions that are crucial for sustainable development prospects of all countries.
How do we meet the world's energy needs?
What role will renewable and alternative energies play?
How can developing countries realize their right to development, and at the same time help in the fight against climate change?
How do we accelerate improvements in energy conservation?
How can developing countries best exploit the opportunities for diversification and new markets offered by the changing energy equation?
Alternative energy sources, including biofuels, already have been forming part of the answers to these questions. While alternative energy sources grow faster than any other energy source, they still account for a very limited share of primary energy demand, therefore they are not expected to replace fossil fuels but to play a complementary role in satisfying the world energy demand.
Section 1 of this report presents the recent developments in the international energy scenario.
Sections 2 and 3 address respectively the biofuels use in transport, as well as market and regulatory developments for biofuels in a number of developed and developing countries.
Section 4 deals with the state of technological progress of the biofuel industry.
Section 5 addresses the issue of support measures for the biofuels sector, followed by Session 6 which covers the linkages between biofuels with broader development challenges in the world as of 2013.
Sessions 7 and 8 examine trade flows of biofuels and related feedstocks, as well as recent developments and WTO implications.
The study focuses on the opportunities and issues faced by developing countries interested in this market, in terms of diversifying energy sources and reducing dependence on fossil fuels, mitigating climate change effects, increasing markets for agriculture products and enhancing the participation of rural communities in economic activities. While utilization levels increased many fold since 2006, biofuels still raise concerns and this prompted a regulatory push for 2nd generation fuels, which started being deployed in 2013. The actual and potential challenges and opportunities, especially for developing countries, are analyzed.
Section 7 presents some data on trade flows for biofuels and related feedstocks among the US, EU and Brazil.
Section 8 deals with some specific World Trade Organization (WTO) issues which may have direct implications for biofuels.
The last two sections of the study illustrate UNCTAD´s activities under its BioFuels Initiative.


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