Political economy of bioenergy transitions in developing countries: A case study of Punjab, India

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Authors

External departments

  • University of Oxford

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number104630
JournalWorld Development
Volume124
Early online date8 Aug 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Occupying an important place in the sustainable development discourse, bioenergy was widely touted as the ‘fuel of the future’ at the beginning of the 21st century. However, in recent years, many adverse impacts of commercial bioenergy projects have come to the forefront. These include limited ecological benefits, heightened food insecurity across many developing countries as well as exploitation of local residents by bioenergy producers. There remains a dearth of empirical evidence devoted to investigating bioenergy’s potential as a sustainable energy alternative in developing countries.

It is against this background that our paper is aimed at making two contributions: one, to provide a ground level empirical data on bioenergy initiatives in the Indian Punjab region and, two, to examine the theoretical contribution of eco-socialist perspective to assess the sustainability potentials of bioenergy in developing economies. The eco-socialist perspective treats environmental degradation as a ‘systemic issue’ and considers the power and class structures in capitalism as the central explanatory parameters in explaining the process of environmental degradation. As a part of the transition from capitalism to eco-socialism, the eco-socialists advocate for a participatory approach to environmental decision making to ensure that ecological justice emerges as the central parameter of sustainable development.

The theoretical framing of the case study research on bioenergy projects in the region of Punjab, India was informed by the eco-socialist vision. The case study employed a ‘multiple stakeholder’ approach to explore the opportunities and contestations surrounding bioenergy projects in Punjab. Identifying key flaws as well as the promises of bioenergy in Punjab that were investigated, our research revealed that in order to be a sustainable energy alternative that meets the objective of ecological and social justice, bioenergy policies need to address the needs of local communities and be cognizant of the inherent socio-economic embeddedness of these initiatives.