Final report. Biofuels scoping review


In recent decades biofuels have become an important alternative to oil, both from an economic and a political viewpoint. Several countries which have significant agricultural sectors and which face critical issues with regards to areas such as rural livelihoods, employment, economic growth and domestic energy supplies, have elected to engage in the production and use of biofuels. In turn, the development of biofuels has led to a number of issues which are especially pertinent when considered on an industrial level.

The objective of the Biofuels Scoping Review is to evaluate the current literature on research related to eight sub-topics: energy efficiency and climate change potential; food security; land-use change; livelihoods; economic growth and jobs; technology; trade; and policy. The review aims to identify the main policy issues as well as research gaps for future consideration. Research undertaken in the African context is the primary focus of the review but relevant work undertaken elsewhere is also referred to.

The research covered is concerned with one or more of the three elements of the Biofuels \"trilemma\" (Tilman et al 2009): biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels as a source of energy; reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental concerns; and, competition over feedstocks for agricultural production. Closely related to these three strands are effects on human welfare and trade-offs between competing demands for food, energy and the environment, with these trade-offs becoming critical where there is poverty and direct resource dependency.

The main conclusions of the review are: that there are significant gaps in the existing research; that there is evidence indicating the viability of biofuel production in African countries; and, that there are a number of different areas of research where DFID could add value.

The report is structured as follows:

  • Section I is an introductory section detailing the background and scope of the review.
  • Section II presents the current state of knowledge and understanding regarding each of the eight biofuels sub-topics.
  • Section III considers known research programmes and operational interventions, research gaps, and provides conclusions.

The accompanying presentation provides a succinct and informative summary of the main areas of the report and key findings.


Di Falco, S.; Doku, A.; Palmer, C. Final report. Biofuels scoping review. Evidence on Demand, UK (2013) 46 pp. [DOI:]

Final report. Biofuels scoping review

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