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Malaysian biofuels industry experience: A socio-political analysis of the commercial environment


  • Mintz-Habib, Nazia


This study examines the Jatropha adoption process in Sarawak, Malaysia, a land rich in biological and ethnic diversity, but highly impoverished. Attempts to alleviate poverty through oil palm plantation development resulted in internationally condemned destruction of peat lands. Sarawak subsequently turned to the inedible, low-input, exportable, biodiesel feedstock Jatropha. This case study argues that Jatropha is unlikely to make more significant socio-economic contributions than oil palm or other cash crops. The analysis suggests that companies use social capital to aggressively expand their Jatropha business among the native population in order to gain access to native customary lands, which are often underproductive peat lands. Global biofuels sector development dynamics are examined through the lenses of political economics and social, agricultural, and energy studies. The research finds that farmers' decisions to participate in the biofuels global value chain may result in negative income effects, household food security reduction, and biodiversity loss from peat land destruction. The paper concludes with a proposal for an alternative approach to evaluate both social and financial drivers in order to prevent the negative effects of biofuel-based agribusiness on human and environmental systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Mintz-Habib, Nazia, 2013. "Malaysian biofuels industry experience: A socio-political analysis of the commercial environment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 88-100.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:56:y:2013:i:c:p:88-100
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.08.069

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Murphy, James T., 2002. "Networks, Trust, and Innovation in Tanzania's Manufacturing Sector," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 591-619, April.
    2. Agrawal, Arun & Gibson, Clark C., 1999. "Enchantment and Disenchantment: The Role of Community in Natural Resource Conservation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 629-649, April.
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    4. Putterman, Louis, 1990. "Village communities, cooperation, and inequality in Tanzania: Comments on Collier et al," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 147-153, January.
    5. Kaplinsky, Raphael & Terheggen, Anne & Tijaja, Julia, 2010. "What happens when the market shifts to China ? the Gabon timber and Thai cassava value chains," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5206, The World Bank.
    6. Bernard, F. & Prieur, A., 2007. "Biofuel market and carbon modeling to analyse French biofuel policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 5991-6002, December.
    7. Cleaver, Frances, 2005. "The inequality of social capital and the reproduction of chronic poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 893-906, June.
    8. Mofijur, M. & Masjuki, H.H. & Kalam, M.A. & Hazrat, M.A. & Liaquat, A.M. & Shahabuddin, M. & Varman, M., 2012. "Prospects of biodiesel from Jatropha in Malaysia," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 16(7), pages 5007-5020.
    9. Jill Windle, 2008. "Land and Longhouse: Agrarian Transformation in the Uplands of Sarawak - by R.A. Cramb," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 52(3), pages 363-364, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Henny Romijn & Sanne Heijnen & Jouke Rom Colthoff & Boris de Jong & Janske van Eijck, 2014. "Economic and Social Sustainability Performance of Jatropha Projects: Results from Field Surveys in Mozambique, Tanzania and Mali," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(9), pages 1-33, September.
    2. Baines, Joseph, 2014. "The Ethanol Boom and the Restructuring of the Food Regime," Working Papers on Capital as Power 2014/03, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism.
    3. repec:zbw:espost:157793 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:zbw:esthes:157992 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:enepol:v:108:y:2017:i:c:p:776-790 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Social capital; Biofuels policy; Jatropha;


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