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Power, social sustainability, and certification of ethanol fuel: view from the northeast of Brazil

posted on 2023-06-08, 12:27 authored by Markku Lehtonen
International discussions on the sustainability of Brazilian ethanol biofuel and efforts to develop biofuel sustainability certification have, until recently, concentrated on the environmental effects – notably deforestation and the indirect land use impacts – of the expected expansion of sugarcane cultivation. The social impacts of large-scale sugarcane cultivation have received major attention in the debate only during the past few years. However, this attention has primarily concerned the impacts in São Paulo State, currently the main sugarcane producing area of the country, and in the Center West, the expected main area of expansion for sugarcane cultivation. This chapter brings into focus the socioeconomic situation and potential impacts of further biofuel expansion in the coastal area of the poor Northeast of Brazil, whose economy and society have been fundamentally shaped by sugarcane cultivation since the late sixteenth century. In particular, the chapter starts from the assumption that the highly unequal power relations in the Northeast crucially condition the impact of biofuel expansion in this region and that the various forms of exercise of power should be given greater attention when designing biofuel policies, notably international sustainability certification. In the context of the highly polarized social relations and competing development paradigms, a crucial question concerns the degree to which sustainability certification can indeed help profoundly transform rather than consolidate the prevailing unequal social and power relations.


Publication status

  • Published


Cambridge University Press

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Book title

Socioeconomic and environmental impacts of biofuels: evidence from developing nations

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Department affiliated with

  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

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Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Alexandros Gasparatos, Per Stromberg

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