3 Scopus citations


Biofuels represent an important source of renewable energy and may play a crucial role in developing sustainable energy strategies for many countries and the world as a whole. The pros and cons of biofuels, however, have been debated both scientifically and politically. They remain a topic of controversy. In this paper, the evolvement of the perspectives and policies on biofuels in the United States in the past several decades was reviewed. Four different periods, that is, the period prior to 1978 (marked by the passage of the Energy Act in 1978); 1978-1989 (ending with the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990); 1990-2004 (ending with the passage of the energy act of 2005); and 2005 to the present, which were characterized by defining events of major policy importance were identified. Each time period was assessed using the Ostrom institutional analysis and development (IAD) framework to show the impact of the evolving interests and influences of global players on policy choices related to biofuels in the United States. The US has a long history of supporting corn-based ethanol and more recently advanced biofuels. Changes in perspectives on biofuels from largely unrelated groups led to changes in policy and market dynamics. Until the late 1990s, most perspectives and policies tended to be aligned and significantly supportive of corn-based ethanol in the United States. In the early 2000s, it became clear that the complications associated with first generation biofuels and corn-based ethanol in particular, were too numerous and too severe to overlook. The need for better options has spurred interest in new technologies and more environmentally benign feedstocks, but, there is little prospect for biofuels playing a significant role in the near term without greater alignment among key players.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-393
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Energy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • biofuels
  • energy sustainability
  • renewable energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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