Energy Systems and the Knowledge Problem: The Case of Biofuels

The Center on Capitalism and Society Columbia University, Working Paper No. 85, February 2015

34 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2016

Date Written: February 12, 2015

Abstract

This paper examines Life Cycle Assessments of biofuels, and concludes that this literature reaches no conclusion on the energy efficiency of biofuels, and their efficacy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The paper analyzes the causes of this inconclusiveness and discusses ways in which better LCA’s can be constructed. While discussions of energy policy presume that the energy mix is a system that can be engineered in order to achieve desired environmental, and economic goals, this paper argues that it is more accurate to understand the energy mix as a spontaneously emergent order that is the product of human action, not human design. The complexity of energy systems, the subjectivist and individualist nature of the human actions determining the outcome of these systems, and the unknowability of technological innovation mean that attempts at designing the energy mix, mandating targets for specific energy sources, or subsidizing specific energy sources can be counter-productive.

Keywords: climate, carbon, emissions, biofuels, knowledge

JEL Classification: B53, H23, Q01

Suggested Citation

Ammous, Saifedean, Energy Systems and the Knowledge Problem: The Case of Biofuels (February 12, 2015). The Center on Capitalism and Society Columbia University, Working Paper No. 85, February 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2832740 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2832740

Saifedean Ammous (Contact Author)

Lebanese American University ( email )

P.O.Box 36
Chouran-Beirut 1102 2801
Byblos
Lebanon

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
36
Abstract Views
262
PlumX Metrics