Thesis title: Global discourse and local outcomes: the case of biofuels in Guatemala
Telephone (if desired): 020 3108 5979
Primary supervisor: Professor Paul Ekins
Secondary supervisor: Adriana Allen (DPU); Dr Rocio Diaz-Chavez (Imperial College London)
Starting date: January 2010
Projected completion date: September 2013
Over the past decade, interest in biofuels has increased, primarily driven by concerns about energy security, resource scarcity and rapidly rising oil prices. Other factors supporting the use of biofuels include their potential contribution to economic development, particularly in rural areas, and environmental benefits, including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. However, growing evidence about the negative impacts of biofuel production, for example competition with food, means that biofuels have rapidly become a contentious energy option.
In my thesis, I argue that biofuels are a politically-driven commodity. Since there is no natural market for biofuels, both demand and the institutional frameworks that govern the supply chain must therefore be created. Many governments have established policy frameworks to promote the production and use of biofuels, which have led to a rapid increase in their production. The use of certification schemes is an important policy instrument to address the sustainability concerns associated with biofuels.
This research will investigate how global biofuels policy is transformed into local outcomes. In order to limit this potentially vast topic, the research will be focused in two ways: firstly, the analysis of global policy will be limited to the European Union (EU). The EU has played a key role in creating biofuels markets to date. Arguably, biofuels in the EU have been primarily driven by concerns about energy security, but the bloc is also characterised by its concern for the sustainability impacts of biofuels. Secondly, using a case study design, the investigation of local outcomes will be limited to one country. By focusing on a particular case, in this instance Guatemala, the study will enable an in-depth exploration of how the biofuel sector is developing in a particular context.
Julia began her academic career as a natural scientist, receiving a BSc in Biology from the University of Leeds in 2002. In 2005 she completed an MSc in Environmental Technology, specialising in Ecological Management from Imperial College London. Her master's thesis explored agricultural biodiversity in the Peruvian Andes, specifically the diversity of potato and maize cultivars. Between 2006 and 2010 she worked as a research associate with Professor Paul Ekins, first at the Policy Studies Institute, then at King's College London, and finally at the UCL Energy Institute. During this time she worked on a wide range of projects covering sustainable consumption, public engagement with renewable energy, and the sustainability of bioenergy and hydrogen systems.
Publications and other work
Upham, P., Reisch, K., Thornley, P. and Tomei, J. (2011) 'The sustainability of woody biomass supply for UK bioenergy: a post-normal approach to environmental risk and uncertainty.' Environmental Science and Policy 14: 510-518.
Upham, P., Tomei, J. and Dendler, L. (2011) 'Governance and legitimacy of the UK biofuel carbon and sustainability system.' Energy policy 39(5): 2669-2678.
Tomei, J. and Upham, P. (2011) 'Argentine clustering of soy biodiesel production: the role of international networks and the global soy oil and meal markets.' Open Geography 4: 45-54.
Tomei, J., Semino, S., Paul, H., Joenson, L., Monti, M. and Jelsoe, E. (2010) Soy production and certification: the case of Argentinean soy-based biodiesel. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 15(4): 371-394.
Thornley, P., Upham, P. and Tomei, J. (2009) Sustainability constraints on UK bioenergy development. Energy Policy 37: 5623 - 5635.
Tomei, J. and Upham, P. (2009) Argentinean soy-based biodiesel: an introduction to production and impacts. Energy Policy 37(10): 3890 - 3898.
Upham, P., Thornley, P., Tomei, J. and Boucher, P. (2009) A sustainability review of substitutable biodiesel feedstocks for the UK. Journal of Cleaner Production 17(S1): S37 - S45.
Bellaby, P., Flynn, R., Ricci, M., Dresner, S. and Tomei, J. (2010) 'Hydrogen energy, public knowledge and opinions about its benefits, costs and risk. Evidence from six case studies in the United Kingdom.' In: Ekins, P (ed). Hydrogen Energy: Economic and Social Challenges. Earthscan: London.
Ekins, P. and Tomei, J. (2009) 'Stimulating eco-efficiency in Asia and the Pacific: the role of public policy.' In: Kwon Chung R and Quah E (eds). Pursuing Green Growth in Asia and the Pacific. Cengage Learning: Singapore.
Upham, P., Tomei, J. and Boucher, P. (2009) 'Biofuels, aviation and sustainability: prospects and limits.' In: Gossling, S. and Upham, P. (eds) Climate Change and Aviation: Issues, Challenges and Solutions. Earthscan: London.
Dresner, S., Ekins, P., McGeevor, K. and Tomei, J. (2007) 'Forestry and climate change: global understandings and possible responses.' In: Freer-Smith, P., Broadmeadow, M. and Lynch, J. (eds.) Forestry and Climate Change. CABI Publishing: Oxon.