Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Actors, Interests and Strategies of Brazilian Foreign Policy on Biofuels

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Actors, Interests and Strategies of Brazilian Foreign Policy on Biofuels

Article excerpt

Introduction

The search by countries for energy security and the increase of international interest in environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change, have favoured an increase in the world production of biofuels in the last few years. In the period 2000-2009, ethanol and biodiesel production grew from 17.7 billion to 86.7 billion litres (Sorda, Banse and Kemfert 2010). In spite of the difference in expert opinions on the less polluting nature of biofuels - since their impact on soil degradation, deforestation and therefore as a threat to biodiversity are all discussed, it is well-known that fossil fuels are even greater pollutants and comprise the main source of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, as well as being a non-renewable energy source.

The international system's favouring of renewable energy sources and of those with a low environmental impact has therefore motivated producing countries to invest in the The international system's favouring of renewable energy sources and of those with a low environmental impact has therefore motivated producing countries to invest in the sector. In 2010, the United States, the world's biggest biofuel producer, launched the new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2), which seeks to give continuity to the country's biofuel policy from the Energy Independence and Security Act (2007), whose aim it is to increase conventional biofuel production and invest in the development of second-generation biofuels, which, in the case of the US, is cellulose-based.

Brazil is currently the world's second biggest biofuels and ethanol producer. Together, Brazil and the United States produce more than 80% of the world's ethanol.1

The Brazilian programme, however, is internationally recognized for its pioneering nature, for its advanced level of development and for producing the most competitive and efficient ethanol of its generation. In spite of the fact that Brazil has 40 years' knowhow in the field of renewable fuels, its leadership and drive in promoting these resources internationally are recent and derive both from favourable internal and international conjunctures, and from the interest of actors linked to the sector.

The search for renewable sources is geared towards environmental protection and energy supply on a global scale, but the interests of domestic groups - and even foreign ones - have impacted on the formulation of the country's strategic policy. Thus, the entry of biofuels into Brazil's foreign policy has also happened as a result of these interests being catered for. As Putnam (1993)2 points out, success in negotiating international policy lies in the government's capacity to not only meet international pressure, but also the domestic demands of interest groups of influence. It is this combination of interactions that determines diplomatic action in the international system. Given these approaches, domestic structure (institutions, leaderships and society) impacts on foreign policy decisions inasmuch as it determines the agenda's priority issues, the development of objectives and the manner of interpreting the external actions by other States (Amorim Neto 2012).

This perspective can be seen in how the subject of energy production is situated within Brazilian foreign policy. When domestic bioenergy production managed to stabilize and large-scale production was guaranteed after years of attempts by interested groups, it then became situated within a favourable international conjuncture and biofuels started being seen as goods that were also tradable in the global market, which increased the number of actors interested in the sector.

This article aims to examine how the entry of biofuels into Brazil's international agenda came about and which actors and interests have influenced the formulation of the Brazilian foreign policy on biofuels. To this end, the article will be developed in two stages: (1) an analysis of the factors that explain how biofuels came to fit into Brazilian foreign policy; (2) an analysis of domestic and international actors and interests that impact the international strategy adopted by Brazil on biofuels. …

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