A sociological look at biofuels: Ethanol in the early decades of the twentieth century and lessons for today

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This article traces the development of the biofuels industry from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. It offers a discussion of how the early dominance of the agro-fuels industry gave way to the predominance of leaded gasoline due to factors intrinsic to the technology and to contemporary agricultural policy. Through an interesting methodological approach that applies political economy principles, it is demonstrated how cycles of path-dependency fostered the growth of the gasoline industry and more recently, the predominance of corn ethanol in the United States. The article concludes by offering a preliminary analysis of the current conditions for biofuel technology adoption and how they might be favorable for the advancement of the industry as an alternative to gasoline.

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Rural development, Economic policy, Transfer payments, Biofuels, Path-dependency, Agricultural policies, Commodity payments, Ethanol, Biodiesel, Governance
Rural Sociology 74(1): 86-112